Meet Georgia’s newest fan

Georgia’s sterling efforts at the World Cup have sparked an unprecedented wave of interest in the sport at the very top of the country’s political chain.

Georgia president Mikheil Saakashvili has announced plans to build at least 10 rugby stadiums over the next 12 months. Quite an upgrade for a nation that boasts just eight rugby pitches.

He also pledged to finance a top-flight competition in recognition of the exposure the World Cup has given Georgia.

The news will be well received by Lelos skipper Ilia Zedginidze. He reinforced the need for the country to forge their own championship following his team’s valiant 14-10 loss to Ireland on Saturday.

The Auch forward believes Georgia’s improved standing in the international rankings – they’ve moved up one spot to 16th – is the most important result from the tournament.

“Playing in France allows [Georgia’s top] players to develop themselves really well, and for this we are really grateful to France,” he said.

“But in Georgia there are not many structures for rugby to develop.

“In the next five years we have to do much more for the internal competition in Georgia.

“I hope that rugby will become the number-one sport in Georgia.

“Now everybody plays football and for our national team we have to choose 30 people out of less than 500 senior players.

“If you look at our younger players, we have some very good 11, 12 and 13 year-olds. They’re as good as the French or English boys.

“In the future we will pay more attention to developing that age group so that we can become as strong as the French, English or any of the top sides. That’s our objective.”


365 Digital

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