Who are Georgia

Tuesday 25 August 2015 Written by: Adam

Ranked 13th in the world, they are the reigning European Nations Cup champions, a title they have taken eight times in a competition they have won 84% of their games played.

Five of those wins have been consecutive, with their run as champions beginning in 2012 and now sees them as the third most successful team in the tournaments history, behind only France and Romania.

The Lelos, as the team is known, take their name from a native game that shares strong similarities rugby union, with the word also being adopted as the word for try.

The game was first played in the country in 1928 and though it initially struggled to gain a foothold, today there are 6000 registered players in the country, 41 clubs and in Southern parts of Georgia, the game has even overtaken Football in popularity.

Friday’s game forms the final part of their preparations for the Rugby World Cup, a tournament Georgia have been and ever present at since qualifying for the tournament for the first time in 2003.

Arguably their best performance at the tournament to date came in 2007, when Ireland were given an almighty scare and were fortunate to take a 14-10 win.

Their squad is packed with players who turn out in the French Top 14 competition, including Toulon’s Mamuka Gorgodze, whose rampaging style of play and imposing physical presence has earned him the nickname Gorgodzilla.

Centre Davit Katcharava, who plays his club rugby at Enisey STM, the Falcons Russian opponents in this season’s European Rugby Challenge Cup pool, is the Lelos current top try scorer, with 17 five pointers in 81 appearances.

Fullback Merab Kvirikashvili is the most capped player in the squad on 84, while as a whole, the Georgian players bring a total of 1180 caps worth of experience.

Georgia’s biggest international rival is Russia, with tests between the two countries providing high intensity matches and bumper crowds, with attendances of over 65,000 not unusual.

Away from the rugby field, links are already strong between Newcastle and Georgia, with the historic town of Akhaltsikhe (translated as Newcastle) twinned with the city.

Friday’s fixture is the first time in three years that the Falcons will face international opposition and with quality, well drilled opposition lining up, it is an occasional experience that no Falcons fan should miss.