Thank You Captain



Georgia’s best rugby player of all times, unconditional team leader and current captain – Mamuka Gorgodze decided to retire from international rugby.


This hard decision was a result of one year’s reflections.


“I planned to finish my international career back in 2015 after the Rugby World Cup but the team asked me to stay, and I put retirement off for some time. But I never stopped thinking about it and finally this is what I am going do! I said several times that I would like the supporters to remember me well, so I think now is the time to leave.


“I am 33 already and will be over 35 by Rugby World Cup 2019. As I am getting older, I get tired and hurt much easier than before, and this will grow more noticeable with age.


“I was repeatedly offered to train exclusively for the World Cup, to join the team only for the key games, but this is not acceptable. The captain must always be with his team, to feel it and live with it, otherwise one is not a captain!


“I still have my strength, commitment and passion, but I cannot handle the game pressure in the same manner any more. If it were the matter of choosing, I would have chosen to stay with the national team, but one cannot keep on going by playing nothing except several international matches per year, and without practice and game exposure I would not be of any use to the team.


“The team might miss me, but nobody is irreplaceable and let us be honest – Georgia has plenty of great third rowers and even better players emerge from age-grade teams.  I decided to announce my retirement 2 years before the World Cup, just before the team enters the active preparation phase, so as not to cause any problems to the coaching staff. To tell you frankly, I am one who is the most brokenhearted about this decision, but it is better to retire at right time and make sure fans remember you as a good player,” said Mamuka Gorgodze.


4 times best at the Rugby World Cup

Since the day Mamuka Gorgodze put on the Lelos jersey for the first time on February 22 2003 to play against Spain, he had been an unconditional leader of the team.


Having played at Rugby World Cups 2007, 2011 and 2015, Gorgodze was named man of the match four times – against England and Romania at RWC 2011, and against Tonga and the All Blacks at RWC 2015.


At Rugby World Cup 2015, when Mamuka Gorgodze was captain of the Georgian National Team, the Lelos made a historical breakthrough by winning two poolstage games and finishing the third in their pool, which automatically qualified them for the RWC 2019.


“I first played for the Lelos back in 2003. I came in from the bench for ten minutes, received a pass and managed to do a couple of good things. There were many memorable international games since then, but the most important were the matches we played at Rugby World Cup 2015.


“I was never as pleased with a game well won as after Tonga vs Georgia final whistle at Rugby World Cup 2015. We won many important games during my career, but this one was special. For me, none the less outstanding was the game against the All Blacks – we opposed the World Champions at my favorite Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and I was named Man of the Match.


“And never in my life will I forget Georgia’s home internationals at the fully packed Dinamo Arena. Especially the last game there against Russia, when over 54 thousand fans lit up their cell phones flash lights to support us. I have played the Top 14 Final at Camp Nou in front of a 93K crowd, but the ambience was nothing compared to a fully packed 54K-seat Dinamo Arena.”


I Will Not Retire from National Team Defeated!

Mamuka started to play rugby in 2000 at the age of 16 for Rugby Club ‘Lelo’ (now known as Lelo Saracens), which became Champion of Georgia in 2004. But he gained popularity during his career in the Top 14 Club Montpellier in 2005-2014. It was back then that he played his first Top 14 Final in season 2010/2011 and was named the best foreign player of the season. In season 2012/2013 Mamuka was named Top 14 and Heineken Cup (now EPCR Champions Cup) player of the month (January).


In 2014 he moved to the star packed R.C. Toulon, where he plays to this day. At the last season’s Top 14 Final Mamuka scored a try against Racing 92, but Toulon lost that match anyway and Mamuka still has to win the French gold.


With his record of 71 caps (including 13 as captain), Mamuka Gorgodze is Georgia’s leading try scorer (26 tries). He was nominated as Rugby Player of the Year six times (in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016) and Georgia’s Sportsman of the Year in 2011.


At his last international against Romania in Bucharest in March 2017 Mamuka Gorgodze got a knee and ankle injury, from which he just recovered.


Georgia lost the Rugby Europe Championship 2017 title decider to Romania 8:7, which made Gorgodze consider playing one last game in national colors.


“I never wanted to play a farewell match. There have been many great players in Georgia who finished their international career without this; I also planned to retire this way, but I do not want to leave national team defeated. I would not have thought this way if we had won against Romania in March, but now I am going play on last match for Georgia in Georgia by all means.”


We grow together

Apart from the official titles listed above, Mamuka was repeatedly named the fans’ favorite sportsman of the year. The Lelos’ captain always felt the public affection and never forgot to express special respect and gratitude toward his fans:


“I would like to pay special thanks to the Georgian rugby fans for the generous support, respect and affection I received from them during my entire career. There are not many big rugby nations in the World who are privileged enough to have such fans as ours. Let us be honest, we, the Lelos, never reached any significant success, but our fans just love us, they always backed and supported us.


“I remember their support from the very first day of my international career. I can say that both the Lelos and their fan base were growing together during these years – the further we progressed, the more fans attended our games, and, importantly, their rugby awareness increased significantly.


Now we can proudly say that the Lelos’ fans are true connoisseurs of rugby, and I would like to thank them with all my respect for all their support which the Georgian National Team received from them”.


The New Generation Will Achieve More

During the 14 years of Mamuka Gorgodze’s international duty, the Lelos won numerous important games and brought worldwide recognition to Georgian rugby. Before we had to struggle with Portugal and Spain and playing against top nations outside the Rugby World Cup was something beyond our imagination. Now the situation has changed and we have one or two tests against the Tier 1 teams annually.


Gorgodze is sure that in the years to come this progress will continue, and his confidence is backed up by the generation of promising players who are bound to replace the older Lelos in the nearest future:


“During the 14 years I played for Georgia, our team achieved significant progress. When I started my career, we would not dream of the kind of fixtures we regularly have now. Even medium-level opponents intimidated us, we were always too tense, because we did not want to be ashamed of ourselves. It is all different now – we can play with more confidence against the strongest teams. Maybe it is too early to think about winning against them, but we know very well that we have a chance to play our way and hurt them a bit.


“However, now is the time when we should be especially careful and vigilant. Our position is coveted by too many, and we ought to be as smart as we can to retain what we have gained and to progress further – because jump-like success is usually followed by a recession. We should not have trouble defending our current position, because there are some very good players coming up and they are capable of achieving more than we did.


“My one dream is to see Georgia play on a par with Six Nations Teams and reach the Rugby World Cup playoffs. I am confident that the next generation of the Lelos will achieve this.

Georgian time


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