Rugby World Cup 2019 Profile: Georgia - Outside of the Six Nations, Lelos are Europe's most powerful rugby force

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With the Rugby World Cup just 10 weeks away, we take a closer look at each of the competing nations. After profiling 10 teams so far, we continue our series with Georgia.

Georgia have been banging on the door of European rugby’s powers that be for several years now.

When The Lelos hosted Russia in March 2017, a sell-out crowd of 55,000 turned out in Tbilisi to watch the game.

And those kind of attendances have been pretty regular occurrences in recent years, with the game steadily growing in stature after winning the second-tier competition – Rugby Europe International Championships – for eight of the last ten seasons.

Widely regarded as the best team outside of the top-tier Six Nations sides, many believe the eastern European outfit are at least as deserving as Italy to be included in the championship.

They were even ranked two places ahead of Italy prior to this year’s Six Nations, but this is largely because the Azzurri face top opposition in the majority of their fixtures, while Georgia’s rankings points were recorded from wins over the likes of Germany and Belgium.

And even when Georgia faced the perpetual Six Nations whipping boys last November, they were blown off the park, which underlines the gulf in class between tier one and tier two teams at present.

With various developments in place to help improve lower-ranked sides, it’s hard to see the Georgians mixing with Europe’s elite any time soon, even if there have been calls for their inclusion in the Six Nations.

A quick review of the top nations they have faced since 2017 and only two high profile nations stand out, where they were narrowly beaten by Wales (13-6) and hammered by Argentina (45-19).

Still, if their 2018 form is anything to go by, where they won eight out their 11 Tests, then confidence should be high ahead of September’s World Cup.

With Australia, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay to play in Pool D, the Georgians should be targeting at least one or two victories in Japan and cap a best-ever World Cup display.

In their last four appearances at rugby’s global showpiece, they have averaged one victory, with their most productive tournament coming in 2015, when they triumphed against Namibia and Tonga.

In terms of playing style, Georgia are a big, powerful side that will take some beating, regardless of the opposition.

Whereas No10 is the most central position for teams like Australia and Wales, it’s the forwards who tend to be the heroes in Georgia, with the game being heavily based on set-piece power.

The Georgian style of play is like many of the eastern European nations, making rugby like another form of wrestling. Their pack are primarily made up of former wrestlers who will turn the scrum and maul into an arm wrestle in a bid to steal possession.

Expect plenty of big ball carriers to ruck, maul and scrummage the ball up the field at every opportunity.

In the backs, there is little spark to set the world alight, and although they try hard, their timing and positioning that can let them down when trying to defend opposition attacks.

The squad itself largely play their rugby in France, with 16 players plying their trade in the TOP14 and PRO D2, while eight players compete in Georgia’s Didi 10 league.

Three other players, including their most capped stars Davit Kacharava (113) and Lasha Malaghuradze (90), play in Russia’s Professional Rugby League.

And while Lelos fans are still contemplating life without their hero Mamuka Gorgodze, who retired two years ago, Number 8 Otia Giorgadze has emerged as the heir to ‘Gorgodzilla’s’ throne.

Although it may take time to capture the imagination of fans the same way Gorgodze did, Giorgadze has buckets of potential and time on the grand stage will only help his development and leadership going forward.

The Georgians are a work in progress, and although they continue to push for Six Nations inclusion, they are an exciting team with plenty of heart and power.

Nickname: The Lelos

Head coach: Milton Haig

Captain: Merab Sharikadze

Most caps: Merab Kvirikashvili (115)

Top scorer: Merab Kvirikashvili (838)

Top try scorer: Mamuka Gorgodze (26)

Home stadium: Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi

Key Player: Otia Giorgadze. The 23-year-old Tbilisi man is a fearless ball carrier and solid in the tackle, and will be key to the Georgian’s prospects in Japan later this year.

Best result: Pool stages (2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015)

Fixtures: Wales (September 23), Uruguay (September 29), Fiji (October 3), Australia (October 11)


It costs just one pound (Dhs 4) to get into a rugby game in Georgia and the stadiums are sold-out regularly.

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John Kirwan, Serge Blanco and Alan Charron feature in Rugby World Cup's 10 greatest tries

Matt Jones 16/07/2019
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The Rugby World Cup is just around the corner and we’re all looking forward to seeing the best players strutting their stuff on the grandest stage.

Will New Zealand make it an unprecedented three World Cup triumphs in a row, can fallen southern hemisphere giants South Africa and Australia make an impact, or is there a chance of England repeating their 2003 heroics, or even Ireland and Wales staking a claim to becoming just the second winner from the northern hemisphere?

There’s been some terrific tries over the previous eight editions – 1,962 scored overall in fact – from a plethora of the game’s greats.

But which live longest in the memory? Without further ado, we maul over our best ever World Cup tries from 1-10.

1 ALAN CHARRON, Canada v Romania 1995

One of the greatest things about this try is it’s the best scored (well, our pick) on rugby’s greatest stage – and no-one outside of his home country has probably heard of the scorer, Charron.

He was, however, Canada’s third inductee into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2017 – and we think he should be awarded that just on the basis of this score.

A clearance from Romania full-back Gheorghe Solomie was brilliantly picked off his boot straps by opposite number Scott Stewart.

A brilliant interchange between Dave Lougheed and Christian Stewart found Winston Stanley who popped inside to the onrushing flanker to surge over from the 22 for a quite brilliant score. It’s just a shame there were only 8,000 spectators inside Port Elizabeth’s Boet Erasmus Stadium to see it.

2 TAKUDZWA NGWENYA, USA v South Africa 2007

The first – and perhaps only – thing you need to know about this effort, is that Ngwenya made Bryan Habana look like a nursing home resident who’d just had a hip replacement as he breezed past him in a 2007 pool encounter.

The move started from the US’ own 22 and when Ngwenya received possession 50 yards out he had Habana ahead of him. He shaped to go inside before turning on the jets and burning arguably the greatest winger that’s ever played the game on the outside to score.

The Springboks sauntered to a comfortable 64-15 triumph, but the previously unheralded Ngwenya, 21 and uncapped before the tournament, made his mark.

The Zimbabwe-born speedster wasn’t even with a senior team before the World Cup, but moved to French giants Biarritz after.

3 STEPHEN JONES, Wales v England 2003

A sublime free-flowing move started and supplied by the twinkle-toed Shane Williams – in an ultimately jarring 28-17 quarter-final defeat to fierce old foes England in Brisbane.

Fielding a deep kick in his own 22, Williams shimmied past two would-be tacklers before sending scrum-half Gareth Cooper on his way.

Cooper handed off to Gareth Thomas who had Williams in support, but an ankle tap on Thomas saw the diminutive flyer forced to juggle the ball from a poor pass. He still managed to gather and fire a bullet pass inside to the supporting Jones, who had a simple task of dropping over the line.

4 JOHN KIRWAN, New Zealand v Italy 1987

Possibly the best solo try ever scored was also the first to ever be scored at a World Cup, setting an almost impossible standard. New Zealand winger John Kirwan was the third player to touch the ball from Italy’s kick-off, embarking on a dazzling run from the shadow of his own posts.

The blond-haired bomber beat almost the entire Azzurri team and was over the line within a matter of seconds, with barely a hand laid on him – one of two tries for him in a 70-6 victory that set the joint hosts on their way to lifting the inaugural Webb Ellis Trophy.

5 KOSUKE ENDO, Japan v Wales 2007

Kirwan, by now Japan coach, knew a thing or two about scoring excellent tries, especially at the World Cup, and he would have marvelled at this effort from his Brave Blossoms against Wales in Cardiff.

Much like his mazy effort against the Azzurri 20 years earlier (see above) this breathtaking length of the field effort lives long in the memory.

It began five metres from their own line with Japan stealing possession and launching a rapid counter-attack. Some lovely quick hands and a great take from Yuta Imamura put Endo in out wide and he was even too quick for speedy Shane Williams as he went over in the corner.

6 FEDERICO ARAMBURU, Argentina v France 2007

The Pumas were one of the success stories of the tournament – capped by this win to take third place from the formidable French, the host nation.

They’d only once previously gone beyond the group stage but sealed their best finish courtesy of this fine try. Full-back Ignacio Corleto collected Aurelien Rougerie’s chip and went on a mazy run into Les Bleus territory.

They kept the move alive when he ran into trouble, the key moment was Juan Martin Hernandez’s beautifully weighted hurled pass into the hands of Rimas Alvarez who then fed Aramburu to cut in and cross the whitewash.

Argentina – who’d beaten the French in the opening game of the tournament – strolled to a comfortable 34-10 victory that set the platform for the rising force they’ve become today.

7 GETHIN JENKINS, Wales v Namibia 2011

Who doesn’t love a big man getting in on the act? And, despite his physical presence and position as a prop, Jenkins made a name for himself throughout his decorated career – with 129 he has 14 more caps than any other Welshman – as a a mobile and agile ball carrier.

His tries (four) tended to come on the big stage – this one following his try in the 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam-clinching game against Ireland.

In the 81-7 pool annihilation of Namibia, Jenkins scored a try any of his illustrious backs colleagues – Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny or Jonathan Davies – would have been proud of. Jenkins sidestepped one opponent outside the 22, threw a brilliant show and go to another before bursting into space past two more and charging over the line despite the attention of three players trying to bring him to ground.

8 CHRISTOPHE LAMAISON, France v New Zealand 1999

A prime example of France’s unpredictable and bizarre tendency to switch from the brilliant to the bad came in their 1999 semi-final victory over the All Blacks.

Les Bleus outscored the Kiwis four tries to three in this blistering 43-31 victory, although they would go on to lose to Australia in the final, their second of three runners-up finishes.

Christophe Domenici tore the All Blacks apart as he left three tacklers for dead in a stunning run from halfway that deserved a try but took him to within a metre from the line. France recycled and a reverse pass found Lamaison who strolled over.

9 SERGE BLANCO, France v Australia 1987

An ugly, beautiful try that is among the most famous in World Cup history. This classic encounter in Sydney at the very first World Cup is also one of the greatest games in the tournament’s history, one capped by full-back Blanco’s manic, thrilling late score that put Les Bleus into the final.

France flowed forward but the ball was dropped and could have been intercepted or cleared on multiple occasions as play switched from the right to left touchline.

Eventually the ball was put in Blanco’s hands by Laurent Rodriguez and he dived over in the corner for a 30-24 win. France lost 29-9 to the All Blacks in the showpiece.

10 VILIMONI DELASAU, Fiji v Wales 2007

Another memorable moment from the 2007 tournament and yet one to forget for Wales.

Not only were Gareth Jenkins’ Dragons burnt by this superb try, but by the result too – with Fiji’s dramatic late 38-34 win sending them through to the knockouts, and their joint best ever finish of reaching the quarter-finals, while Wales went home.

In a dramatic game that see-sawed throughout Graham Dewes scored the seismic try three minutes from the end, but it was Delasau’s that had earlier caught the eye.

Winning a scrum in their own half Fiji moved the ball through the backs, Delasau pouncing on a handling error from Wales to gather out wide. He chipped over full-back Gareth Thomas and then enjoyed the benefit of the bounce, which eluded Mark Jones and landed in his grateful gasp, touching down for a memorable score.

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Wales hooker Ken Owens hopes it's third time lucky at 2019 Rugby World Cup

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Ken Owens is looking to finally make an impact at his third World Cup.

Ken Owens hopes to make a World Cup impact at last as Wales seek to show just why they are one of the tournament favourites in Japan this autumn.

Owens, Wales’ most capped hooker with 64 appearances, has incredibly never started a World Cup match, with his game-time in rugby’s biggest competition restricted to roles from the bench.

The 2017 British & Irish Lion was Wales’ third-choice hooker at the 2011 World Cup when he made his international debut, and four years later the Scarlets star provided back-up to Scott Baldwin.

“Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to go to this World Cup and get a start,” said 32-year-old Owens.

“Going into 2011 I’d come off a serious injury and because a couple of other boys had injuries too I made the squad – and I was chuffed to get my first cap at that World Cup.

“In 2015 it was pretty much the same. I’d had about eight or nine months out with my neck again.

Wales lifted a third Grand Slam under Gatland.

Wales lifted a third Grand Slam under Gatland.

“Scott had a great tournament and my role was to bring an impact off the bench, which I enjoyed. You make your own luck and player’s roles change in different squads.

“Hopefully I can stay fit and prove myself to the squad. It would be huge to make a third World Cup.”

Wales headed to Switzerland this week for a fortnight of punishing high-altitude training in the Swiss Alps.

The idea of the training camp is that the players’ bodies become more accustomed to recovering when there is less oxygen available, making their bodies more efficient at using it when it is more present in Japan.

“It’s not pleasant, but we know why we’re doing it and what the purpose of it is, especially if you’ve been through it before,” Owens said.

“You can see the results it gives you and the places you can get to in those big matches.

“The first thing you can turn to is your fitness, you can back yourself to dig in and go the distance when it’s tough.

“It’s worked over the last two World Cup cycles and going into the third it’s massively important.”

Wales head towards Japan as the form team in international rugby and only behind New Zealand in the world rankings.

They secured the Six Nations Grand Slam with a 14th successive win in March, and Warren Gatland’s side have not tasted defeat since losing to Ireland in February 2018.

Australia – whom they beat in November to end a 13-game losing streak against the Wallabies – will provide their biggest group test at the World Cup, with the pool also including Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay.

“To get that result against Australia was a monkey off the back and does give us confidence,” Owens said.

“You saw when we beat South Africa and got that one win, we’ve had pretty good results against them since then.

“But the challenge will be there in every game. Fiji have won in France and, you see this at every World Cup, that when the South Sea Island sides get an extended period of time together they’re very dangerous.

“You can’t write off Georgia either. They’ve got some strength and weapons, and Uruguay are not just going to turn up and roll over to give us the points.

“We can’t just say ‘all we need to do is beat Australia’ because we might end up losing the other games.”

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