Georgia Rugby World Cup
KUTAISI, GEORGIA - MARCH 10: Zurab Zhvania of Georgia is tackled as he goes to score during the Rugby Europe International Championship round 4 match between Georgia and Germany at Aia Arena on March 10, 2019 in Kutaisi, Georgia. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

Georgia has a great opportunity to put themselves to the forefront of the minds of the fans during the upcoming World Cup in September. However, as the event draws ever closer, Last Word on Rugby asks how much do we really know about the Georgia Rugby World Cup team?

As David Challis has done with Fiji and Uruguay, he assesses the Georgian team’s chances in Pool D.

Georgia are known for a big pack of forwards but is that enough for them to challenge at the Rugby World Cup. 2019 poses a great opportunity for the Georgian side but whether they will seize it is another issue.

Georgia Rugby World Cup history

Georgia have risen up the rankings consistently since their first appearance at the Rugby World Cup in 2003. This was only 13 years after their first test which is a record. Here they lost all of their games, but in 2007 they finished fourth after defeating Namibia comfortably.

They continued their rise in 2011, still finishing fourth with one win against Romania. However, this time they came much closer against tier-one sides Argentina and Scotland. When they arrived in 2015 they achieved their best-ever finish of third in the group, as well as a strong showing against eventual winners, New Zealand.

Georgia Rugby’s greatest World Cup moment

There are two main candidates for Georgia’s greatest World Cup moment. The was when they almost beat Ireland in 2007. They led at halftime and only a Girvan Dempsey try in the second half separated the sides. The final score was 14-10.

Another great Rugby World Cup moment for Georgia was in 2015 against Tonga. It was their opening game of the competition and they defied the odds to defeat the Pacific Island nation. The game finished 17-10 thanks to tries from talisman captain Gorgodze and flanker Tkhilaishvili. This win effectively sealed their automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup as well as putting them firmly in the minds of all rugby fans.

Consider Georgia’s recent form

Over the last couple of years Georgia have cemented themselves as the clear next best side in Europe outside the Six Nations. They have won the Rugby Europe Championship for the last two years and largely dominated the competition.

This form has fostered calls for them to be included in the Six Nations at the expense of Italy. However when the two sides met in 2018, Italy ran away fairly comfortable winners.

Despite this the growth of Georgian rugby has been easy to demonstrate. Their grand slam match in 2018 against Romania drew a crowd of 38,000. Although this has been hard to replicate it demonstrates the Georgian rugby is well and truly on the up.

Three key players to watch

Vasil Lobzhanidze

Lobzhanidze is probably the most talented member of the Georgian squad. He burst onto the scene as an 18 year-old and already has amassed 37 caps by the age of 22. He is an extremely intelligent player which sets him apart from a lot of tier two halfbacks so expect him to control the game for Georgia and put them in the right areas of the field.

Guram Gogichashvili

Embed from Getty ImagesGogichashvili is another young member of the Georgian squad but an extremely influential one. He only has five caps but is just 20 years old and is cementing his place at the front of the Georgian scrum. That is no mean feat and his appearances for Racing 92 have demonstrated that he belongs at the very highest level.

Giorgi Nemsadze

Embed from Getty ImagesAt the other end of the experience spectrum comes Nemsadze. A hardened second row who has played all across Europe, including stints at Bristol and Ospreys. He is a leader in the formidable Georgian pack and will look to add to his 87 caps come Japan in September.

Georgia Rugby World Cup Pool D chances

Georgia will expect to beat Uruguay, meaning that the big game comes against Fiji in their pool. If all things go to plan this will be a fight for third place in what could be one of the most entertaining games of the World Cup. It will be a battle of contrasting styles and it will be fascinating to see which one comes out on top.

The matches against Wales and Australia will also be a really interesting watch. Although no one really expects Georgia to get a win, an upset is not completely off the cards. Wales and Australia will have to be on their guard otherwise the powerful Georgian side could pull of a famous upset.

Going forward: beyond the 2019 World Cup

Georgia find themselves in a tough position going forward beyond the Rugby World Cup. They are probably too good for the Rugby Europe Championship but the door appears closed to the Six Nations.

They need to make the most of opportunities they get in the summer and autumn against tier one nations to make statements. If they do not one could fear that their progress will begin to stagnate.

In terms of their overall game they need to develop behind their pack of forwards. Steps forward have been made in the last two years but more needs to be done to turn them into a real threat to the big teams. With some more innovation and creativity they could be a really strong team in the years to come.

 

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