Georgian rugby has come on leaps and bounds since their inaugural World Cup in 2003, where they had a points difference of -154 and failed to gain a single point.
Contrast that to 2015 where they had a points difference of -74, in a group where they were the second worst ranked team.
The Georgian outfit raked up two wins: one over Namibia and one over higher ranked Tonga. Here are some of the reasons why Georgian rugby is improving by the second.
The facilities in Georgia have improved dramatically as the public now welcomes it as their national sport, especially in southern Georgia. Back in 2008 there were only two high standard pitches throughout the whole of the country.
But now, there has been developments which have led to the production of 16 high-quality pitches. This has led to more teams and players being able to train and improve on the best surfaces not only in Georgia but the world.
The Age Grade Teams
At the under 18 and 20 age groups, Georgia have been high flying successes. In the World Rugby Under-20 trophy (the tier 2 and 3 World Cup) Georgia managed to win the 2015 tournament showing their improvement on the previous year where they could only finish 5th.
In the under-18s European Championships the Georgian side shocked all and placed above England, Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Unfortunately, they lost in the final to a solid French team. The development of youth teams and their coaching creates better players for the senior team who are making the most of the youth players.
Georgia has now embraced rugby as it’s national sport and the people are warming to it. One technique used by the Georgian Rugby Union was to lower ticket prices. Some tickets can cost less than a £1, which is unheard of in most rugby countries.
This is driving fans to get into rugby and to catch a glimpse of their national team. The average attendance has escalated to around 27,000 fans while their record is beyond 55,000. Kids in Georgia now want to become rugby players just like children in New Zealand and other rugby-obsessed nations.
Where The Players Play
The best Georgian players opt to play in the French Top 14 as it’s one of the best leagues in the world. Their hooker Zurab Zhvania runs out every week for Stade Francais as does prop Giorgi Melikidze. Youngster, talisman and scrum half Vasil Lobzhanidze chooses to play for Brive despite only being 19.
However, 14 members of their current squad continue to play in the Georgian domestic league, commonly known as the Georgia Championship. This boosts the standard of the league and gives Georgian teams a chance to play in European tournaments.
All in all these factors are helping the Georgian game rise rapidly. They may not have the biggest pool of players, the most amount of money or the best talent but Georgia are on the rise. It would not be surprising if their form merited a place in the Six Nations for they are just a mere two places away from Italy in the rankings.
Keep your eye on Georgia as they rise up the rugby rankings and eventually into perhaps the Seven Nations?
Patrick Perry, Pundit Arena
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