I am from Georgia, a country that many of you have never heard of.
Georgia is a great country and a tradition of playing rugby makes it even greater.
Rugby's popularity in Georgia might be explained by its resemblance to the traditional Georgian game named “Lelo” or “Lelo Burti” (meaning “Field Ball”).
So I can say that this sport has a big history for Georgians.
But the real success for the Georgian rugby union started coming in the 1990s.
On April 11, 1991 Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union. Georgia was now a rugby union nation, but getting matches was not easy. They were limited to the odd game against Ukraine until they gained membership of the IRB in 1992.
Later in 1997, French coach Claude Saurel arrived in Georgia to help them to take rugby in the country to another level. At first he became Rugby Sevens coach; later, in 1999, he became the national team coach.
Georgia tried its luck in RWC 1999, qualifying but unfortunately not succeeding.
During the European Nations Cup tournament of 2000, Georgia finished second in the competition, behind Romania. The following year, Georgia improved upon this, winning all five of their matches during the 2000-1 tournament, and thus finishing at the top of the table.
Georgian first made an impact at Rugby Sevens by finishing a respectable 10th in the 2001 edition of the Sevens World Cup in Argentina. 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 2001-2002 tournament. When Georgia played Russia in the European Nations Cup, 65,000 people crammed into the national stadium in Tbilisi.
Rugby World Cup years
After hard work, the Georgian dream came true. Georgia defeated Russia to end the qualifying successfully. I remember that night, the whole national stadium was full, the streets were full, everyone in the city was celebrating.
In RWC 2003 Georgia was grouped into pool C alongside giants—South Africa and England. They suffered their heaviest defeat ever when beaten by England 84-6 in their opening game.
In their second match, Samoa comfortably eased to a 9-46 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.
But the defeat didn’t weaken the Georgians. On the contrary, after a lot of training the team qualified again for the RWC 2007. In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Georgia performed strongly. They had three losses—to Argentina 3-33, to Ireland 10-14, and to France 7-64—and a victory! A victory over Namibia 30-0.
Georgia is planning to have better results at Rugby World Cup 2011.
In 2008, Georgia won the European Nations Cup for the second time.
According to IRB rankings, Georgia is in 14th place in the world.
Thank you for reading.