The first tour of Georgian Rugby to England

30-Apr-2013

Several days ago, our former vice-president and the veteran rugby player - Tamas Andguladze visited us at the Union and brought us a 23 years old file folder.

 

Georgia was combating for the international recognition in all areas at that time.  A way to the IRB was forged by David Kilasonia and Douglas Kavtelashvili in 1989. David Kilasonia gave over the baton to Tamaz Andguladze and in two and the half years, in February 1992 he completed the objective:

 

The Welsh secretary of IRB – Keith Rowlands accepted Georgia as a 52nd member of the world rugby family right after the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus we gained the right to engage the qualification for RWC 1995. 

 

Tamaz Andguladze did a great job at that time. Apart of personal acquaintance with the IRB Elite, he became a close friend with the correspondent of RUGBY WORLD magazine, Englishman Harry Townsend, who agreed to become an ambassador of Georgian Rugby.

 

In 1991 Tamaz, invited Harry to Georgia, after before, in November 1990 they both took Georgian Rugby Club Koreby – English for the Hawks (aka Locomotive Tbilisi, Elmavali Tbilisi) on the tour to England. This was a pioneering tour for Georgian rugby to England and our boys showed great performance there.

Harry Townsend and Tamaz Andguladze at Twickenham

 

Firstly Koreby played their hosts - Horsham RC and after it, they had a fixture against Rosslyn Park FC - side that was occupying the sixth place in English premiership at that moment. Koreby won the both fixtures with big margins (Horsham vs Koreby - 9-28; Koreby vs Rosslyn Park - 4-27).

RC Koreby visiting Twickenham

 

Unfortunately, there is only an article on the game against the Horsham RC at Mr. Adguladze’s mentioned papr file folder, so we can learn about the game play against Rosslyn Park only based on memories of people who were there.

 

As per Mr. Andguladze's words, some half an hour before the Rosslyn park game kick off, approximately 70 years old man entered the Koreby's team room, who had a Georgian flag (at that time, Georgia was fighting for the independence from Soviet Union, so the fact of seeing the Georgian flag would have been the ultimate motivation for Koreby players) and introduced himself as Kaki Ramishvili (Son of Noe Ramishvili - the prime minister of the first Georgian Republic, which only existed for three years, before Georgia got annexed by the Soviet Union in 1921) – “Lads, the whole Georgia is by your side now! Go to the pitch and play on against your opposition team with dignity, this way you will gain their respect and of entire English rugby as well. Lads, you know better than me that rugby is game of honorable men" Mr. Ramishvili cheered boys. Neither Rosslyn Park player, nor Mr. Ramishvili could imagine that we would have won that game, but we did. During the whole game, Kaki Ramishvili cheered for Koreby and waved the Georgian flag up as high as he could.

 

Memories

 

Tamaz Andguladze – Harry Townsend, an English sports writer. He was the one who had organized that tour for us. Harry was our so called ambassador in the rugby world as he kindly agreed to be one as I asked him before. I would like to underline that there was a lot of his commitment in our recognition by IRB. Well, by means of his efforts to organize the first tour of Georgian rugby to the motherland of rugby, the FC Horsham invited us to England. Horsham was a nice and cozy little town not far away from London. There, besides of our host team, we played many armature teams as well, we even played against the coed team of Horsham and East Grinstead (Harry’s hometown). Long story short - we have bulldozered over all teams on our way. 

 

As I have mentioned above, Harry was sports writer, so and he would write about our succesfull games we had in Horsham. Once Andy Ripley, ex England International and British Lions skipper, have came across the Harry’s article on Koreby’s English tour and reportedly got interested in the possible fixture of us against Rosslyn Park. So, Harry organized that fixture as well and soon there was a game day. Mr. Kaki Ramishvili came to the game from London to cheer for us. I remember that he encouradged the boys and waved the Georgian flag with eyes full of tears.

 

 

The game started and my words cannot explain what was happening at the pitch. Koreby advanced their opposition nearly in all aspects of the game – Dato Chavleishvili for instance scored a try, converted it and also scored some two or three drop goals. Back row Japarashvili and Beselia surprised the crowd with their excellent performance; I will not over exaggerate if I say that scrum performance was extraordinarily. We have won that game with the score of 27 over 4. The opposition scored only one try.

 

I nearly forgot to say that, at the function after one of our games, Wayne Shelford – ex All Black 8, the world Champion, came to meet us. 

Wayne Shelford meets RC Koreby

 

That was a great generation of Georgian rugby. But due to the political turmoil that had place in Georgia after its independence in 90es for more than a decade, these boys did not get the chance to advance their rugby and continue the excellent performance. I believe that our rugby would have been now 10 years ahead in its development if not those happenings in our country.

 

David Shubitidze, ex Koreby prop – “I liked town of Horsham a lot, it was very nice, small English town. Wherever I looked around on the way from London to Horsham there were rugby pitches all around. Apart from Horsham and Rosslyn Park, we played against numerous amateur local sides. Teams would come and just offer to play. People had a great passion for rugby there, I even remember that in one of those games my vis-à-vis was handicapped person with one hand and one had to see his great performance.

 

We had a traditional function with our host, Horsham side after our fixture, when they advised that we would have a game ahead against much stronger side. They have also told us that if we’d stand strongly against them, we would gain a lot of respect from local rugby and promised to fun for us during the fixture. We did not have any idea that our hosts were talking about Rosslyn Park. I think it was our coach’s conception not to tell us who the opposition side was, for us not to fear them, or maybe the fixture was decided after the game against Horsham RC.

 

None of us could imagine that we would have won that game against Rosslyn Park, but scored 27 points against 4.       

 

I do not know what has happened to us, but after Kaki Ramishvili’s inspiringly motivating words we went to the pitch and played so well that in 15 minutes our victory was clear.

 

Merab Beselia, ex Koreby wing – We were a good side. I would say that adding of Nugzar Dzagnidze (ex Georgian International and AIA RC fly half) and some more Kuataisi (second largest city in Georgia famous for its strong rugby traditions) based players, would have completed the Georgian National Team.

 

The local families have hosted us in Horsham, and you had to see how they were cheering us during all our games.

 

We had our first fixture against our hosts. The Horsham boys were the friendliest people we met in England. We were having some great times after the games and generally there was the traditional rugby atmosphere in the whole duration of our tour. There were some amateur teams as well we played against. Well, later on we have learned that we were supposed to play against a much stronger side soon.

 

The Horsham players have worn us – guys, you are about to play against much stronger team than we are, so well prepared – they said. They have also added that if we would not lose the game with large margin, the fixtures would have become annual. We did not know that our hosts were telling us about the Rosslyn Park RC, which was one of the strongest sides at that time in England.

 

To be honest, we did not much realize what a great team the Rosslyn Park was, we did not much know much about that side, but never the less we have followed our hosts’ advise and did the maximum of our preparations. From the very beginning of the game we tried our best to keep the ball and gain as much territory as possible. Everybody in our team showed the best of their performance.

 

The Article

 

West Sassex County Times – issue 30/11/1990

 

Soviet Strength too Much for Horsham 

 

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