The Lelos’ coaching staff selected the 32 players to train for the four Rugby Europe Championship 2021 matches to be played this spring.
“We plan to keep this squad for all these matches, though there might be some slight changes. Mikheil Nariashvili will join us for the Spain game. This year’s Rugby Europe Championship is the Rugby World Cup Qualifier and we are trying to assemble the most efficient squad”– said the Lelos’ Head Coach Levan Maisashvili.
The top two teams of Rugby Europe Championships 2021-2022 will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023, and the third-place winner will join the international repechage.
The Lelos will play their first four REC matches in March. Of these, three are away: vs Portugal in Lisbon on March 6 (kick-off at 19:00 Georgia time); vs Spain in Madrid on March 14 (kick-off at 15:45 Georgian time); vs Russia in Kaliningrad on March 20 (kick-off at 15:00 Georgian time). On the weekend of March 27-28 Georgia hosts Romania, and the last round of REC 2021 will be played against either Belgium or Netherlands at home, on June 26-27.
Georgia-based Group Trains in Shevardeni
Before the beginning of general training camp, the local group gathered at Shevardeni Training Base and started to work on development of their S&C and skills. The training sessions are not attended by Batumi and Aia players, who will join the camp after the 10th round of Didi 10 Championhip this weekend.
“It is important for us to make sure that the players’ S&C preparation reaches the desired level; hence the early training camp. On Sunday Aia and Batumi players will join us and on Monday morning we will depart for Portugal,“ says Maisashvili.
“After the Portugal match we will stay abroad and continue to train for the game against Spain next Sunday, after which we will return to Tbilisi, have one full training and leave for Kaliningrad, where we are bound to play against Russia. This is connected with certain issues, though at this stage it is better to have four games in a row, rather than release players to the clubs and have a hard time gathering them back in“.
Four Uncapped Players
In the extended squad there are four uncapped players. Of these, two are props – Gia Kharaishvili of Racing 92 and Nika Abuladze of Kochebi RC. Two others – third-row forward from Brive Irakli Tskhadadze and Aia’s fly-half Giorgi Babunashvili, had attended national team training camps before, though never made it into the match squad.
The Head Coach says he will try to give all the players some game time:
“We all know Kharaishvili from his U20 performance. He is in an excellent shape and it will be interesting to see some of his performance “.
“We do not have much depth and choice at loosehead prop position. I have been observing Nika Abuladze for a long time now, I watched all of his games this season. He is very fit, has an outstanding muscle mass and strength; while his scrum performance is solid, he is a good ball carrier and strong tackler. The only drawback is that Nika has no intenrational experience, so we will try to provide him with such exposure. In Didi 10 Nika Abuladze is the best at his position, though our domestic championship is played at a very different pace, as compared to international matches, which implies we will have to work on his fitness during the training camp.“
“Back when Milton Haig was Head Coach, we had invited Babunashvili to the national team training camps several times, though this player could not show his worth because of injuries. In Didi 10 he is an outstanding fly-half; he is in a very good shape, and we will let him play at the international level if we can. After the previous training camp he did all the homework we gave him and I think he surely deserves a chance.“
“I know Irakli Tskhadadze from the Under 20 team. He had to struggle recovering from injuries, but he is a hardworking athlete, who is definitely worthy of our attention.“
Approaching Speedy Portugal
During the Rugby Europe Championship 2020, we encountered Portugal in Paris and they scored against us the most – 24 points, though finally we won 39:24. Maisashvili says that the team will consider the last year’s experience while preparing for this game:
“Portugal plays at a considerable speed, quickly reacting to opponents’ mistakes; last year in Paris we had to face this speed and deal with the ensuing problems. This was a good lesson, and we will be ready this time. Georgia is a leading team at Rugby Europe Championship, and we need to reinforce this position.“
Extended Squad for March Games
Props: Guram Gogichashvili (18 caps, 5 points), Beka Gigashvili (19 caps, 5 points), Gia Kharaishvili (uncapped), Giorgi Melikidze (23 caps, 10 points), Nika Abuladze (uncapped);
Hookers: Shalva Mamukashvili (79 caps, 50 points), Jaba Bregvadze (62 caps, 15 points), Giorgi Chkoidze (14 caps, 5 points);
Second Row: Nodar Cheishvili (27 caps), Lasha Jaiani (7 caps), Giorgi Javakhia (5 caps), David Gigauri (7 caps, 5 points);
Third Row: Giorgi Tkhilaishvili (61 caps, 60 points), Beka Saginadze (18 caps, 15 points), Irakli Tskhadadze (uncapped), Mikheil Gachechiladze (13 caps, 10 points), Tornike Jalagonia (5 caps)
Vasil Lobzhanidze (57 caps, 45 points), Gela Aprasidze (30 caps, 24 points), Mikheil Alania (1 caps); Tedo Abzhandadze (21 caps, 129 points), Giorgi Babunashvili (uncapped), Lasha Khmaladze (85 caps, 53 points);
Backs: Merab Sharikadze (72 caps, 60 points), Aka Tabutsadze (8 caps, 30 points), Deme Tapladze (6 caps, 5 points), Mirian Modebadze (14 caps, 30 points), Giorgi Kveseladze (29 caps, 25 points), Sandro Todua (89 caps, 65 points), Sandro Svanidze (1 cap), Soso Matiashvili (30 caps, 152 points), David Niniashvili (3 caps).