Georgia is a rugby nation on the rise. The national side, nicknamed The Lelos or sometimes the Men of Borjgali, will be looking to continue its development and improvement at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Coach Milton Haig knows that the Georgians are not favoured to reach the quarter-finals but in Pool C, where they face New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Namibia, the eastern Europeans are likely to finish in third place and that means an upset against one of the big boys would see them through to the knockout stage.
What Georgia really desires is a place at rugby’s top table in Europe. That would require a promotion/relegation system in the 6 Nations or an expanded 7 Nations. Currently the Lelos take part in the annual European Nations Championship where they have become the leading force. The Men of Borjgali have managed to overtake Russia, Spain, Portugal and Romania in the second tier and are improving all the time with many of their players, particularly front rowers now plying their trade professionally in France.
The Georgians have appeared in three Rugby World Cup tournaments to date. Their first appearance was in 2003 when they were placed in Pool C with England, South Africa, Uruguay and Samoa. In 2007 the eastern Europeans recorded their first win at the World Cup with a 30-0 win over Namibia in a Pool D match at Stade Felix-Bollaert.
Georgia has won two World Cup matches and lost ten so far after securing a victory in New Zealand in the pool stages in 2011. Some players to look out for include Malkhaz Urjukashvili, a points machine with 18 tries, 42 conversions, 41 penalties and a drop goal in his 65 Tests for his country and the ever popular Mamuka Gorgodze – nicknamed Gorgodzilla.
The Lelos qualified for the 2015 World Cup after finishing top of the European qualifying group with nine wins and one draw (against fellow qualifiers Romania) in their 10 games.
Photo credit: Tamuna Kulumbegashvili