Rugby Europe | 30 players, including five rookies

25-Jan-2019

© Tamar Kulumbegashvili

 

The Lelos’ coaches named the extended squad for the first two matches of Rugby Europe Championship 2019. The team is a mix of experienced and young players, of whom five have not yet played for The Lelos and seven have under 10 international caps.

 

After the events developed at Rugby Europe 2018 (which also served as a Rugby World Cup Qualifier), Romania, Spain and Belgium were relegated to the last three positions of tournament ranking, due to which Georgia’s opponents in the first two matches of this year’s REC season will be tough teams – Romania and Spain.

 

The Lelos play against Romania in Cluj Napoca (at Cluj Arena), at 16:00 (Georgia time) on February 9, and then we host Spain at Avchala Rugby Stadium at 18:00 on February 17. For Milton Haig, starting the tournament by playing against strong opponents is a novelty and a challenge, for the first-timers and young players - a chance of showing what they are worth.

“Traditionally for the first 2 matches we bring in some younger players to see if they can play at the level we require, this year is no different with a young squad being named. There are also a couple of players who are new to our environment and it will be good to see what they bring to the team.

 

“Starting new season with oponents like Romania and Spain is a great challenge for us and something that is a little new, but at the same time quite exciting. What it means is that we have to be very well prepared and players have a good understanding of what is important.

 

“Both, Romania and Spain have gone through some turmoil in the last 12 months, both having player eligibility problems and this has taken them out of the World Cup contention for this year. They will both have great motivation to beat us and we must react to this and play to our very maximum ability right from the start of the competition“ – says Milton Haig.

 

 

Five uncaped and Seven Newbies

 

The Lelos coaching staff called for 12 backs and 17 forwards in the squad. Five of the forwards have not played for the Lelos yet, though some of them have attended the national team training camps. A chance of making a debut during the Romania and Spain matches is given to RC Armazi-based hooker Giorgi Khuroshvili, Romanian Super League CSM Bucuresti second-row forward David Gigauri, Lelo-Saracens second-row forward Grigor Kerdikoshvili and ProD2 Aurillac third rowers Giorgi Javakhia and Beka Saginadze. Giorgi Khuroshvili, Giorgi Javakhia and Beka Saginadze are Jusnior Lelos, Georgia U20 graduates, who participated in World Rugby U20 Championships (the first two – in 2016, the latter – in 2017-2018).

 

This is how Haig describes the new boys:

 

“Three of these players have been involved in the National Team before, either in the official squad or the National Wider Training group. Davit is new and someone we have only just become aware of and in the short time he has been with us, we have been very impressed. All are very athletic and physical players and we are looking forward to see them play in the National jersey.”

 

Two experienced players – hooker Shalva Mamukashvili and Prop Levan Chilachava, are called in front. The others have under 10 internationals in their record.

 

“All are very young, we know this, but we have a lot of faith in these players. Guram is one of the best loose head props in the Top 14 and both Gigashvili and Melikidze are playing regularly for their teams in Top 14. Mataradze is the starting loose head prop for his team Nevers, who are currently leading the ProD2 in France so we are happy with how he is playing.

 

“Experience is obviously very valuable but attitude is also extremely important and we think these players will have plenty of that.“

 

One of Georgia’s most experience lock, Giorgi Nemsadze is back, who missed the November TBC Series due to injuries. The squad includes Nodar Cheishvili, who played all Georgia’s internationals but one in 2018.

 

Beka Gorgadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, and the experienced Giorgi Tkhilaishvili are invited in the third row.

 

Front-row forward Tornike Mataradze has not played for Lelos since the opening match of Rugby Europe 2018. After the lengthy break, the Lelos’ ranks will be filled by two backs Giorgi Aptsiauri (who had not played since the test against Scotland in November 2016) and Mirian Modebadze (who collected all his three international caps in November 2017 and was healing injuries since then).

 

The most capped player in the squad is Lasha Malaguradze (88 caps), who has also scored the most – 184 points. Soso Matiashvili returns to the squad after the injury he sustained against  Italy last year. Soso is our main kicker, who scored 125 points in 14 matches. The youngest player in the extended squad is Georgia;s another U20 star - Tedo Abzhandadze, who made his debut last November against Samoa and scored 22 points.

 

 

Preparing for the Rugby World Cup

 

The national team will start preparing for Romania on February 4, but before then, next week, the Lelos will assemble for three days in Tbilisi for Regulation 9 camp.

 

“Traditionally Reg 9 camp are for preparation and getting players to understand our systems and protocols for the National Team. It also allows us to fitness test the players to make sure they are at the required level to play International rugby.

 

“The following week becomes a normal 'test week' and preparation is as we would normal do, but with a good Reg 9 camp, it will allow us to be even more prepared for Romania.” – says Haig.

 

As 2019 is a Rugby World Cup year, this year’s Rugby Europe serves to test young players and create depths for the national team:

 

“This tournament is our last real competition before we compete at the World Cup in Japan. It’s an opportunity to continue to build depth and competition for positions and an opportunity to continue to develop our players’ skills and the way we play.

 

“It’s also an opportunity to look at how players, especially the new boys, fit in to the group and react to being in camp with the National Team. What players do and how they behave 'off the field' is as important as what they do 'on the field' so again we will be monitoring this closely.”

 

 

 

LELOS of GEORGIA

2019  |  SQUAD FOR *RUGBY EUROPE* FEBRUARY MATCHES

[ 9/02 (A) ROMANIA  |  17/02 (H) SPAIN ]

#

Player

Club [League]

Born

 

Backs

 

B3

Lasha KHMALADZE

Batumi [GEO Big 10]

1988

B3

Giorgi APTSIAURI

Lokomotivi Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1994

B3

Soso MATIASHVILI

Lelo Saracens Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1993

B3

Giorgi KOSHADZE

Kharebi Rustavi [GEO Big 10]

1996

B3

Zurab DZNELADZE

Lokomotivi Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1992

B3

Mirian MODEBADZE

Aia Kutaisi [GEO Big 10] 

1997

CE

Lasha MALAGHURADZE

VVA Monino [RUS Premier]

1986

CE

Merab SHARIKADZE

Aurillac [FRA Pro D2]

1993

CE

Giorgi KVESELADZE

Armazi Marneuli [GEO Big 10]

1997

FH

Tedo ABZHANDADZE

Aia Kutaisi [GEO Big 10] 

1999

HB

Giorgi BEGADZE

Lokomotivi Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1986

HB

Vasil LOBZHANIDZE

Brive [FRA Top 14]

1996

HB

Gela APRASIDZE

Montpellier [FRA Top 14]

1998

 

Forwards

 

LH

Tornike MATARADZE

Nevers [FRA Pro D2]

1996

LH

Guram GOGICHASHVILI

Racing [FRA Top 14]

1998

HK

Shalva MAMUKASHVILI

Enisey Krasnoyarsk [RUS Premier]

1990

HK

Giorgi TCHQOIDZE

Lelo Saracens Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1991

HK

Goga KHUROSHVILI

Armazi Marneuli [GEO Big 10]

1996

TH

Levan CHILACHAVA

Montpellier [FRA Top 14]

1991

TH

Giorgi MELIKIDZE

Stade Français [FRA Top 14]

1996

TH

Beka GIGASHVILI

Grenoble [FRA Top 14]

1992

LK

Giorgi NEMSADZE

Ospreys [WAL Pro 14]

1984

LK

Nodar TCHEISHVILI

Cornish Pirates [ENG Champ]

1990

LK

Davit GIGAURI

Municipal [ROM Super]

1994

LK

Grigor KERDIQOSHVILI

Lelo Saracens Tbilisi [GEO Big 10]

1994

BR

Giorgi TKHILAISHVILI

Batumi [GEO Big 10]

1991

BR

Beka GORGADZE

Bordeaux [FRA Top 14]

1996

BR

Giorgi TSUTSKIRIDZE

Aurillac [FRA Pro D2]

1996

BR

Giorgi JAVAKHIA

Aurillac [FRA Pro D2]

1996

BR

Beka SAGHINADZE

Aurillac [FRA Pro D2]

1998

UPDATED 27/01_2019 @ 15.40

 

 

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