This has been a remarkable weekend of European rugby, and we’re not just referring to the Six Nations Championship.
The last three days have seen England flex their considerable muscle at Twickenham while Ireland and Wales served up a match of huge physicality. Georgia and Russia played out a sterling contest in Tbilisi, in front of 55,000 people.
While Italy appear cut adrift at the bottom of the Six Nations table, many have been calling for Georgia to take their place, or at least join them in Europe’s premier rugby competition. And should they be able to produce fare similar to that of last weekend on a regular basis, the dissenting view will cease to carry much weight.
Georgia ultimately triumphed 28-14 against fierce rivals Russia, but that is only part of the story. The nation is clearly united behind their rugby team and it is when a team garnered such magnificent levels of support that they appear destined for great things. Add in the fact that Georgia dotted down for some scintillating tries, and the superb attendance isn’t hard to understand.
Admittedly much of Russia’s defence, particularly out wide, was shoddy to say the least. But equally obvious is that this Georgian team field as gargantuan a pack as ever and in Merab Kvirikashvili they possess a genuine game breaker in the back division.
Felling teams of Russia’s ilk is well and good but it goes without saying that if Georgia are to truly progress, more games against higher quality opposition are needed. Games which they can only get through entry to the Six Nations. Questions marks will likely be raised over the ability to remain competitive over a five game competition but that will only be improved through experience. Similarly, the powers that be are likely less keen on regular trips to Tbilisi than they are to Rome, but such inclinations should have no place in the discussion.
Georgia have been making huge strides in recent years and have the potential to become a genuine rugby force. Their supporters have clearly taken notice and thrown their full support behind them. It’s time the Six Nations do the same.