Levan Maisashvili retained 29 players for the Rugby Europe round three match against Belgium to be played at Aia Arena, Kutaisi on February 22.
Starting with Monday, the training camp at Shevardeni HP base will be attended by 17 forwards and 12 backs, of whom 3 are debutants. 2nd row forward Lasha Jaiani, who played for Georgia at World Rugby Under 20 Championships 2017-2018 and was member of Georgia XV, attended the Lelos pre-RWC camp and trained with the team during this REC campaign, though he had not made it to the match squad so far.
Center Deme Tapladze was also invited to join the extended team at the beginning of this season, but his senior international debut had not taken place yet. Tapladze played for the Junior Lelos in 2018-2019 and intends for the third appearance at WR U20s this year.
New face in the camp – Another Georgia U20 graduate, back-row forward Tornike Jalaghonia, who had played at World Rugby Under 20 Championships 2017-2018 and moved to the French Biarritz afterwards received invite from Maisashvili. In his last WRU20C match, Tornike broke his leg, which took long time to recover; now he is a leader in his Espoirs team and it looks like he has a chance to show his worth in the national team as well.
One of the players convoked is 22-year-old Bordeaux hooker Lasha Tabidze, who had won 4 senior international caps in 2017 and played in the starting fifteen once but had not played for the Lelos since.
After the Romania and Spain victories, Levan Maisashvili chose not to invite several recognized team leaders to the camp, which offers the youngsters a viable opportunity to show their strengths:
“Tornike Jalaghonia was very good at World Rugby Under 20 Championship and we had been following him ever since. Unfortunately, he got injured at some point. Now we have a chance to invite him and watch him closer. He definitely deserves a place in the extended squad, and if possible, you will see him in action too.”
“Deme Tapladze is with us in this REC campaign from the very beginning. He is a very good player and we do need some depth for his position. Lasha Jaiani is smart and has a highly positive World Rugby Under 20 Championship record. We do not have many players of his like and it is our goal to develop him as much as we can in order that he can get firmly rooted in the national team.”
“We did not ask several France-based front rowers to join us – in order to give an opportunity to some of their team-mates who had limited playing exposure so far. One of the players invited is Lasha Tabidze, who had some international experience in recent years but was not offered any further chances since, and we are willing to see how he has developed. Otherwise, we have no more changes. We are missing Otar Giorgadze who got a micro-injury and Vasil Lobzhanidze who will have an opportunity to play more high-level games in his club.”
The match at “Aia Arena” kicks off at 15:00, and Maisashvili expects local and traveling fans to show their traditional support:
„As regards playing in Kutaisi, this city always offers us a fantastic atmosphere, because the local fans are so very fond of rugby. I am sure the stands will be full. I am very fond of this tradition, enabling Kutaisi-based rugby fans, who cannot always travel to Tbilisi for rugby, to attend our matches at their home ground. I look forward to their support and the warm Kutaisi welcome.”
Extended squad for Georgia vs Belgium
Forwards: Guram Gogichashvili (Racing 92, 1), Giorgi Tetrashvili (Agen, 1), Shalva Mamukashvili (Kochebi , 2), Vano Karkadze (Brive, 2), Giorgi Chkoidze (Lokomotive, Penza, 2), Giorgi Melikidze (Stade Francais, 3), Lasha Tabidze(Bordeaux, 3); Nodar Cheishvili (London Scottish, 4-5), Shalva Sutiashvili (Angouleme, 4-5), David Gigauri (Colomiers, 4-5), Lasha Jaiani (Exeter University, 4-5); Beka Saghinadze (Aurillac, 6, 7), Giorgi Tsutskiridze (Aurillac, 6, 7), Mikheil Gachechiladze (Enissey, 6, 7), Giorgi Thkhilaishvili (Batumi, 6, 7), Tornike Jalaghonia (Biarritz, 6-8), Beka Gorgadze(Bordeaux, 6-8).
Backs: Gela Aprasidze (Montpellier, 9), Giorgi Begadze (Jiqi, 9), Lasha Khmaladze (Batumi, 10-15), Tedo Abzhandadze(Brive, 10), Lasha Malaguradze (VVA, 10-12), Tamaz Mchedlidze (Rouen, 11, 12, 13, 14), Zurab Dzneladze (Locomotive, 11, 12, 13, 14), Demur Tapladze (Lelo-Saracens, 12-13), David Kacharava (Enissey, 13), Alexandre Todua(Batumi, 11-14), Akaki Tabutsadze (Lelo-Saracens, 11-14), Soso Matiashvili (Lelo-Saracens, 15).