Pool D - Georgia
Cash-strapped Georgia make the best use of their relationships with French clubs. The national team played Agen, Auch and Albigeois to warm up for the World Cup. The team were coaxed there by Frenchman Claude Saurel and two-thirds of the squad currently ply their trade in French club rugby. Saurel, a 54-year-old former Béziers flanker who was once Morocco's national coach was the key figure in getting Georgia to their first world cup in 2003.
In 1997 he was appointed to assess the standard of the game and improve its development and the former Soviet state is beginning to reap the rewards of his efforts. Current coach Malkhaz Tcheishvili has named an experienced 30-man squad for RWC 2007 with 13 veterans of Georgia's first ever appearance on the biggest stage of all in Australia four years ago. Georgia failed to record a victory on their World Cup debut, although they did impress with their determination. While not expected to worry the higher ranking teams in their pool, Georgia will not go down without a fight.
Coach: Malkhaz Cheishvili (Georgia)
Captain: Ilia Zedguinidze
IRB Ranking: 17
Odds to win: 3000/1
Number of clubs: 25
Number of Registered players: 2,866
Matches MT W D L
4 0 0 4
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
1 1 12 1
Auch lock Ilia Zedginidze has scored 14 tries in 46 international games for the former Russian state. He shared the captaincy in 2003 with Vassil Katsadze, due to his battles with a head injury received against Italy in 2003 but bears the mantle alone this year. The 30 year old brought his side to victory in June when Georgia beat Namibia 26-18 in the IRB Nations Cup.
Capped 34 times by Georgia, he plays with Agde in France. When Zedginidze went out injured in the 2003 World Cup Katsadze took his place as captain. He has scored 8 tries in his international career so far. Katsadze is probably the most versatile member of the Georgia squad. He is happiest in the backs but can also turn his hand to playing as a flanker if necessary.
The fly-half is the most-capped man in the Georgia squad, at 56 caps. Known as ‘Paliko', he will be charged with the task of leading his younger team-mates through the World Cup, although there are no uncapped players in the squad. Described as a ‘points machine', the kicker will be expected to rack up points in the tournament as he has been doing in the warm up games.
Rugby in Georgia
A relative newcomer to the game of rugby, it is thought that the sport was introduced by a French schoolteacher in the 1950s. The first competition was between three domestic teams in 1961, with an international being played against a Russian team the following year. The Georgian team are known as the ‘Lelos', from an indigenous Georgian sport called lelo which has strong similarities to rugby. Lacking resources, the team is famous for making scrum machines out of old Soviet tractors. While a popular spectator sport, there are still only 300 adult players in the country.