Georgia national rugby union team
|Union||Georgian Rugby Union|
|Head coach||Milton Haig|
|Most caps||Merab Kvirikashvili (95)|
|Top scorer||Merab Kvirikashvili (743)|
|Top try scorer||Mamuka Gorgodze (26)|
|Home stadium||Mikheil Meskhi Stadium|
|World Rugby ranking|
|Current||11 (as of 27 June 2016)|
|Georgia 16–3 Zimbabwe
(Kutaisi, Georgia; 12 September 1989)
|Georgia 98–3 Czech Republic
(Tbilisi, Georgia; 8 April 2007)
|Georgia 6–84 England
(Perth, Australia; 12 October 2003)
|Appearances||4 (First in 2003)|
|Best result||3'd in the pool in 2015|
The Georgia national rugby union team nicknamed The Lelos or Men of Borjgali represents Georgia in international rugby union. Rugby union in Georgia is administered by the Georgian Rugby Union. The team takes part in the annual European Nations Cup and participates in the Rugby World Cup, which takes place every four years.
Georgia is currently considered a second tier rugby union nation and is one of the world's fastest growing rugby nations. The Lelos participate in the European Nations Cup, winning the tournament in 2001, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. The bulk of the national squad are based in France, in both the Top 14 and lower divisions. This is a practice that was popularized by former national team coach, Claude Saurel, a Frenchman, who later coached neighbouring rivals Russia.
Rugby is one of the most popular sports in Georgia. The national team qualified for the Rugby World Cup four times, first in 2003 – playing against rugby powers such as England and South Africa. The Lelos recorded their first ever World Cup win in 2007 Rugby World Cup, where they beat Namibia 30–0. As of 4 July 2016, Georgia are ranked 11th in the world by World Rugby. Since 2013, Georgia has hosted the World Rugby Tbilisi Cup.
The Georgia national rugby sevens team became the first national side from Georgia to compete in a major tournament, playing in the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens World Cup 2001 in Argentina. Georgia also has a Georgia A national rugby union team.
- 1 History
- 2 Lelo
- 3 Honours
- 4 Notable Wins
- 5 Record
- 6 Players
- 7 Individual all-time records
- 8 Coaches
- 9 See also
- 10 Sources
- 11 References
- 12 External links
There were unsuccessful attempts to introduce rugby union into Georgia in 1928 and also in 1940 and in 1948.
Rugby's popularity in Georgia might be explained by its resemblance to the traditional Georgian game named "Lelo" or "Lelo Burti" (meaning "Field Ball"). This game was played in Georgia from ancient times and is still played on occasions in rural areas. A field ("Lelo") was selected between two river creeks which represented a playing ground. Two teams, usually consisting of the male population of neighboring villages, would face each other. The number of players from each side was not set, but included any able men each village could summon. A large, heavy ball was placed in the middle of the field and the goal of the game was to carry it over the river creek of the opposing side.
The Georgia Rugby Union was founded in 1964, but until the late 1980s it was part of the Soviet Union's rugby federation. The rugby union connection between France and Georgia started as links were established by the then powerful French Communist Party and many other left-wing organisations. Georgia initially did not have its own team and its best players would play for the USSR team.
In 1988 Georgia produced their first national sevens side. In September 1989, Georgia got together with other FIRA countries to host a tour by Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's first match on the tour was in the wet against Georgia in Kutaisi, west of Tbilisi, which Georgia won 16–3. The next year Georgia went to Zimbabwe where they played two tests, losing the first in Bulawayo and winning the second 26–10 in Harare.
On 9 April 1991 Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union. Georgia was now a rugby union nation but getting matches was not easy: the old Soviet team continued under the name Commonwealth of Independent States. Georgia were limited to the odd game against Ukraine until they gained membership of the World Rugby in 1992.
French coach, Claude Saurel, first arrived in Georgia in 1997 with a brief to assess the standard of sport; he and his development team have helped boost the profile of the sport. Saurel went on to work with the Georgia national rugby sevens team team, until he was appointed as the national coach in the summer of 1999.
Georgia's 1998 loss to Romania saw them play a two legged repechage play-off against Tonga to qualify for the 1999 World Cup. On that occasion Georgia lost the first leg 37–6 in Nukuʻalofa before a 28–27 win in Tbilisi. This was not enough and Georgia failed to qualify.
After France and Italy dropped from the reborn European Nations Cup, Georgia became a major force in the tournament. In the 2000, Georgia finished second in the competition, finishing behind Romania. The following year, Georgia improved upon this, winning all five of their matches during the 2000–01 tournament, and thus finishing at the top of the table. They clinched the title by beating Romania away 31–20 on the final day. Rugby union took off in the country, the travel and opportunities to land lucrative contracts in France made rugby union a glamorous pursuit in Georgia. Georgia placed second in the 2001–02 tournament. When Georgia played Russia in the European Nations Cup 65,000 people crammed into the national stadium in Tbilisi.
In October 2002 Georgia faced Russia, in what was at the time one of the most important clashes ever between the two national sides. The victorious nation would head to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and the loser would be relegated to fight it out for a repechage position. Neither nation had ever been to a World Cup, though Georgia had come close in 1999. 45,000 spectators turned out to the national stadium. Both nations kicked penalty goals in the first half, but Russia moved ahead with a 13–9 lead through a try, but Georgia were able to score a try of their own just before half time, with Levan Tsabadze putting them in front 14–13 at the break. Georgia held on, winning 17–13, a victory which sparked celebrations throughout the capital. Three of the 75 French-based Georgian players were denied permission to play in the tournament and were suspended. Another five were sacked and arrived in Australia as free agents. In a warm-up game held in Asti the Georgians lost to Italians 31–22.
In the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Georgia were grouped into pool C alongside giants – South Africa and England. They suffered their heaviest ever defeat when beaten by England 84–6 in their opening game. In their second match, Samoa comfortably eased to a 46–9 victory. Although they performed well against the Springboks (losing 46–19) they were disappointingly defeated by Uruguay 24–12, in a match that they were expected to win. They lost all four of their matches but had impressed against South Africa. Despite the sad financial state of their union, qualification has seen the sport's profile rise throughout Georgia.
In 2007 Georgia were drawn against Argentina, Ireland, Namibia and tournament hosts France in Pool D. The team recorded their first win in the rugby world cup with a 30–0 win over Namibia in their Pool D match at Stade Felix-Bollaert. The foundation for the three-tries-to-none victory was laid by Georgia's experienced forward pack who wore down their opponents at the breakdown. The 2007 world cup campaign is also well remembered for Georgians by brilliant display against Ireland, were Georgia lost the match by 4 points 10–14. The tournament was over with 7–64 defeat to hosts France on 30 September.
Georgia began their 2011 Rugby World Cup preparations with a two-match tour in France, the playing base of most of its World Cup player pool, against sides in the country's second-tier league, Pro D2. They won 28–24 against Stade Aurillac on 13 August, followed by a 28–15 win over CS Bourgoin-Jallieu on 19 August.
The pool included England, Argentina and Scotland, as well as local rivals Romania. Despite the close nature of their pool, Georgia were impressive in all matches, including a tight match against Scotland which was lost 15–6, thus missing a bonus point narrowly and a 41–10 loss against England, which featured a man-of-the-match performance by flanker Mamuka Gorgodze. Georgia went on to record only their second ever Rugby World Cup win against Romania, winning 25–9 with another man-of-the-match performance by Mamuka Gorgodze. Georgia finished their campaign with a strong showing against Argentina, leading 7–5 at half time before conceding 20 unanswered points to lose 25–7. Thus Georgia finished their campaign with 1 win and 3 losses.
In the 2015 Rugby World Cup Georgia played against Tonga, Argentina, title holders New Zealand and the top African qualifier Namibia in Pool C. The group opener finished with Georgia’s 17–10 victory against Tonga. It totally paid off for what the Lelos have worked so hard during RWC preparations. With this history-maker fixture, they won the third World Cup match in the history of Georgian Rugby. Georgia lost second match against Argentina 9–54, although in the first half finished 14–9 for the Pumas. In the third match Georgia were defeated by New Zealand 43–10 in Cardiff. Again in the first half The Lelos held very well against the mighty All Blacks, with score remaining 22–10 for the world champions. In the last match Georgia defeated Namibia 17–16, for the first time ever finished the group on third place with two wins and two defeats and secured their qualification for 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Aftermath of the World Cup
In 2016, Georgia once again cemented its claim to be the seventh best national rugby team in Europe, when they won the European Nations Cup for the sixth consecutive time, with 10 wins from 10 matches. In the 2016 mid-year internationals the Lelos traveled to pacific islands for the first time and finished the historic tour unbeaten with 19–19 draw against Samoa, 23–20 victory against Tonga and 14–3 victory against Fiji.
The team's nickname, The Lelos, comes from lelo burti, a traditional Georgian sport with strong similarities to rugby. Lelo has been adopted as the Georgian word for "try" (the highest-valued score in rugby). One standard cheer of Georgian rugby union fans is Lelo, Lelo, Sakartvelo (Try, Try, Georgia).
Lelo has its roots in pagan times; the ball symbolized the Sun, one of the cesestial bodies worshipped throughout the Middle East. The game used to be a proven form of military exercise, it was adopted by the Orthodox Church to such an extent that the Priest used to bless a red – the most revered Christian colour – ball at Easter and throw it up to the players. Village vied with village, Uppies with Downies, married men with betrotheds and bachelors, and sometimes teams were selected on tribal lines. The goal of the Lelo-burti was to bring the ball to a pre-marked place, that is Lelo. Hence, both an 'in-goal area' and a 'try' in contemporary Georgian are referred to as 'Lelo'.
- European Nations Cup
- Antim Cup
- Winner (10): 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
|28 March 1999||Georgia||28 – 27||Tonga||Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi|
Referee: Didier Mene (France)
|23 November 2013||Georgia||16 – 15||Samoa||Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi|
|Try: Sharikadze 42' c
Con: Kvirikashvili (1/1) 42'
Pen: Kvirikashvili (3/5) 6', 19', 78'
|report||Try: Leiua 13' m
Lam 26' c
Con: T. Pisi (1/2) 28'
Pen: T. Pisi (1/2) 69'
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
|23 November 2014||Georgia||35 – 24||Japan||Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi|
|Try: Mamukashvili 12' m
Penalty Try 22' c
Kvirikashvili 38' m
Khmaladze 53' m
Tsiklauri 75' c
Con: Kvirikashvili (2/5) 26', 76'
Pen: Kvirikashvili (2/2) 52', 72'
|report||Try: Hesketh (2) 29' c, 67'c
Tatekawa 78' c
Con: Goromaru (3/3) 34', 68', 79'
Pen: Goromaru (1/1) 27'
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
|19 September 2015||Tonga||10 – 17||Georgia||Kingsholm, Gloucester|
|Try: Vainikolo 72' m
Con: Morath (1/1) 73'
Pen: Morath (1/1) 9'
|report||Try: Gorgodze 27' c
Tkhilaishvili 56' c
Con: Kvirikashvili (2/2) 28', 57'
Pen: Kvirikashvili (1/3) 19'
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
|18 June 2016||Tonga||20 – 23||Georgia||ANZ National Stadium, Suva, Fiji|
|12:45 FJT (UTC+12)||Try: Iongi 6' c
Fonua 69' c
Con: Takulua (1/1) 7'
Fosita (1/1) 70'
Pen: Takulua (1/2) 34'
Halaifonua (1/1) 43'
|report||Try: Kacharava (2) 19' c, 80+4' c
Con: Kvirikashvili (1/1) 21'
Malaghuradze (1/1) 80+5'
Pen: Kvirikashvili (3/5) 2', 32', 41'
|Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)|
|24 June 2016||Fiji||3 – 14||Georgia||ANZ National Stadium, Suva, Fiji|
|12:45 FJT (UTC+12)||Pen: Volavola (1/1) 14'
||report||Try: Khmaladze 42'
Pen: Kvirikashvili (3/5) 11', 56', 78'
|Referee: JP Doyle (England)|
|Top 30 rankings as of 11 July 2016|
|*Change from the previous week|
|Georgia's Historical Rankings|
|Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 1 November 2015|
Georgia has won 117 of their 192 representative matches, a winning record of 60.94%. Since World Rankings were introduced by World Rugby in September 2003, Georgia have occupied below number ten the majority of the time.
Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Georgia national XV at test level up until 24 June 2016.
|South Africa A||1||0||1||0||0.00%||17||31||−14|
|South Africa President's XV||1||0||1||0||0.00%||16||21||−5|
Georgia has competed in four Rugby World Cup tournaments. Their first appearance was in 2003 when they were placed in Pool C with England, South Africa, Uruguay and Samoa. In 2007 Georgia recorded their first win in the Rugby World Cup with a 30–0 win over Namibia in their Pool D match at Stade Bollaert-Delelis. The Lelos best performance was in 2015, where they finished third in a group for the first time. Georgia have to date won four World Cup matches and lost twelve.
|World Cup record||World Cup Qualification record|
|1991||Did not enter||Did not enter|
|1995||Did not qualify||2||0||0||2||15||38|
|2019||Automatically qualified||Automatically qualified|
European Nations Cup
Results correct up until 19 March 2016
On 27 May, Head Coach Milton Haig named a 30-man squad for the 2016 summer tests against Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
Caps updated: 24 June 2016
Ilia Zedginidze – Played as a Number 8 and was a lineout specialist. A member of their inaugural World Cup side in 2003, he captained Georgia in the 2007 tournament, but was forced out of the squad because of an injury. This injury ultimately led to him announcing his retirement from international rugby, after gaining 48 caps. He returned to the squad in late 2008, playing against Scotland A and taking part in the 2009 European Nations Cup, where he scored a game-saving try against Portugal on 14 February 2009.
Malkhaz Urjukashvili – Moved to France, where he has been playing in Stade Toulousain, RC Nîmes, US Tours, in 2003, RC Cannes-Mandelieu, from 2003/04 to 2006/07, in the Fédérale 2, Stade Aurillacois Cantal Auvergne, from 2007/08 to 2008/09, in the Rugby Pro D2 and Groupe Sportife Figeacois, since 2009/10, in the Fédérale 2.
He is one of the best players and scorers for Georgia, holding currently 65 caps for his National Team, with 18 tries, 42 conversions, 41 penalties and 1 drop goal, in an aggregate of 300 points. His first match was a 29–15 win over Croatia, in Tbilisi, at 12 October 1997, aged only 17 years old. This made him one of the youngest players ever to be capped at international rugby level.
He was present at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, playing three matches and scoring 2 penalties and 1 drop goal, 9 points in aggregate. In the game against England at Perth, he kicked a long range penalty that registered as Georgia's first Rugby World Cup points (England eventually won the game 84–6).
He was called once again for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, playing in all the four matches and scoring one conversion. He continued to be a valuable player in the 2011 Rugby World Cup qualification, the third Georgia gained in a row.
Mamuka Gorgodze – Switched to rugby from basketball aged 17. His first club was Lelo in the Georgian Top League, he was soon selected for the Georgia national team and made his debut in 2003 against Spain, at the age of just 18 and not long after he started playing rugby. However he wasn't selected for Georgia's first appearance at the 2003 Rugby World Cup later that year.
In 2004 he became a regular fixture for the Georgia side and then signed for Montpellier in 2005. Gorgodze started his career at Montpellier mainly as a reserve in the side and didn't get much game time. He was still a regular in the Georgia side though and was selected for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Gorgodze started three of Georgia's four matches at the World Cup, and was one of Georgia's star players.
After the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Gorgodze started playing for Montpellier a lot more regularly and was their first choice lock. Gorgodze was signed by Brive for the 2009/10 season but Gorgodze changed his mind and decided to stay at Montpellier, who were forced to pay Brive 200,000 euros to keep him.
A known weak spot for Gorgodze is his indiscipline, he has received 16 yellow cards for Montpellier since 2007. During 2010 he was banned twice for fighting, once with Sébastien Pagès against Albi and the other time with Alex Tulou against Bourgoin.
Gorgodze changed position for Georgia to the back row, and when Fabien Galthié and Eric Béchu became the new Montpellier coaches before the 2010/11 season they also converted him to the back row. Gorgodze became a revelation at flanker during this season, and halfway through the season French newspaper L'Équipe commented that he improved his technique and became a mobile and unstoppable player. Gorgodze played a big role in Montpellier finishing the 2010–11 Top 14 season as runners up, and had a particularly massive match in the Top 14 semi final against Racing-Métro. At the end of the season L'Équipe named him as the best foreigner in the league.
Individual all-time records
|1.||Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||2003–||66||61||5||130||26||0||0||0|
|5.||Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||2003–||66||61||5||130||26||0||0||0|
Most points in a match
|1.||Merab Kvirikashvili||Full Back||32||2||11||0||0||Germany||Tbilisi||06/02/2010|
|2.||Merab Kvirikashvili||Full Back||24||1||2||5||0||Portugal||Lisbon||08/02/2014|
|Merab Kvirikashvili||Fly-half||23||1||9||0||0||Czech Republic||Tbilisi||07/04/2007|
|6.||Malkhaz Urjukashvili||Fly-half||20||0||7||2||0||Czech Republic||Kutaisi||12/06/2005|
|8.||Malkhaz Urjukashvili||Full Back||19||1||4||2||0||Spain||Tbilisi||28/10/2006|
|9.||4 players on 18 points|
Most tries in a match
|Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||15||3||0||0||0||Czech Republic||Kutaisi||12/06/2005|
|David Dadunashvili||Hooker||15||3||0||0||0||Czech Republic||Tbilisi||07/04/2007|
|Malkhaz Urjukashvili||Centre||15||3||0||0||0||Czech Republic||Tbilisi||07/04/2007|
|Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||15||3||0||0||0||Spain||Tbilisi||26/04/2008|
Most matches as captain
|6.||Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||2013–2015||8||3||5||0||37.50||10||2||0||0||0|
|9.||3 players on 3 matches|
|1.||Malkhaz Urjukashvili||Wing||17 years and 18 days||Croatia||Tbilisi||12/10/1997|
|2.||Irakli Chkhikvadze||Wing||18 years and 38 days||Chile||Tbilisi||12/11/2005|
|3.||Vasil Lobzhanidze||Scrum-half||18 years and 116 days||Germany||Heusenstamm||07/02/2015|
|4.||Mamuka Gorgodze||Number 8||18 years and 223 days||Spain||Tbilisi||22/02/2003|
|Otar Barkalaia||Fly-half||18 years and 223 days||Ireland||Dublin||28/09/2002|
|6.||Vito Kolelishvili||Number 8||18 years and 255 days||Italy A||Bucharest||20/06/2008|
|7.||Giorgi Elizbarashvili||Wing||18 years and 265 days||Russia||Tbilisi||13/10/2002|
|8.||Merab Sharikadze||Centre||18 years and 270 days||Spain||Madrid||11/02/2012|
|9.||Irakli Giorgadze||Centre||18 years and 328 days||French Universities||Tbilisi||10/11/2001|
|10.||Konstantin Mikautadze||Lock||18 years and 345 days||Scotland A||Glasgow||14/11/2008|
|1.||Gia Labadze||Flanker||38 years and 276 days||Canada||Vancouver||23/06/2012|
|2.||Zurab Mtchedlishvili||Lock||35 years and 343 days||France||Marseille||30/09/2007|
|3.||Victor Didebulidze||Lock||35 years and 330 days||France||Marseille||30/09/2007|
|4.||Akvsenti Giorgadze||Hooker||35 years and 120 days||Argentina||Palmerston North||02/10/2011|
|5.||Irakli Abuseridze||Scrum-half||35 years and 104 days||Spain||Tbilisi||09/03/2013|
|6.||Giorgi Chkhaidze||Flanker||34 years and 309 days||Fiji||Suva||24/06/2016|
|7.||Ilia Zedginidze||Lock||34 years and 255 days||Argentina||Palmerston North||02/10/2011|
|8.||Rati Urushadze||Flanker||34 years and 59 days||Italy A||Palmanova||20/11/2009|
|9.||Tedo Zibzibadze||Centre||33 years and 316 days||Argentina XV||Tbilisi||18/06/2014|
|10.||Bessik Khamashuridze||Wing||33 years and 309 days||Namibia||Bucharest||19/06/2011|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Georgia national rugby union team.|
- Rugby union in Georgia
- Georgia at the Rugby World Cup
- History of rugby union matches between Georgia and Romania
- Antim Cup
- History of rugby union matches between Georgia and Russia
- History of rugby union matches between Georgia and Tonga
- USSR national rugby union team
- European Nations Cup
- "When Georgia’s XV came of age". rwc2003.irb.com. Retrieved 29 November 2006.
- "World Rankings". World Rugby. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
- International Rugby Union Statistics – Georgia
- "Gorgodze à Brive ?". 18 November 2008.
- "Gorgodze et Tulou s'échangent quelques amabilités". 9 November 2010.
- "Gorgodze percute, tamponne, caramélise, retourne. En plus, il franchit". 3 June 2011.