Georgia teenager Vasil Lobzhanidze set to become youngest World Cup player

16-Sep-2015

 

By www.rugbyworldcup.com

 

BRISTOL, 15 Sept - Georgia's teenaged scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze is set to make history at Rugby World Cup 2015, with coach Milton Haig confirming the youngster will feature at some point during the tournament’s pool phase, and in doing so become the youngest player to grace the turf at a World Cup.

 

Lobzhanidze, who will turn 19 one week after Georgia’s final pool match against Namibia on 7 October, would eclipse Thretton Palamo’s record to become the first 18-year-old to feature on the sport’s biggest stage. USA centre Palamo was aged 19 years and eight days when he played against South Africa in RWC 2007.

 

“Although he’s only 18 he plays and makes decisions like a 25 or 26-year-old,” Haig said. “He makes good decisions under pressure. He’ll certainly feature. We’re still in the selection process so whether that’s in the first game (against Tonga) or the last game (against Namibia) we don’t know yet, but he’ll definitely play. There’s no doubt.”

 

Lobzhanidze was at high school in Tbilisi during the previous World Cup and admits he barely remembers the 2011 tournament.

 

“Just a few years ago I would not have imagined that I would play for the Georgian national team, let alone at a World Cup,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. A fantastic feeling.”

 

RUGBY ORIGINS

 

The 18-year-old began playing rugby at age 11 at the Armazi Tbilisi club in Georgia’s capital, where he still plays today in the nation’s top division.

 

He comes from a large family with four siblings, including a twin sister, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He is used to being the youngest in the room, as he and his twin sister are the babies of their immediate family.

 

“I come from a big family, which is very typical for Georgia. Of course they will all be watching and looking for me on television.”

 

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

 

Georgia have the sixth most experienced squad at the tournament in terms of overall caps, and Lobzhanidze will relish playing alongside some of the most seasoned players at RWC 2015.

 

“From everyone I have learned something. All the boys who play in this team are immensely experienced in comparison to myself, so I am able to learn from all of them.”

 

But when asked to reveal what qualities he feels he brings to the Lelos, Lobzhanidze shifted in his seat and his cheeks turned a rosy shade of red, exemplifying the humble nature of Georgian players, who are reluctant to talk themselves up.

 

When pressed for an answer, Lobzhanidze replied that he felt most comfortable going forward. “I feel comfortable attacking, like a scrum-half should,” he said.

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