World Rugby Under-20 Championship Coming to Georgia in 2017

As Georgia’s accomplishments on the rugby field continue to gain long-deserved recognition from experts in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, there was another indication that Georgian rugby is advancing its reputation when they were announced as hosts of the 2017 World Rugby Under-20 Championship on May 14.

“I’d like to congratulate the Georgian Rugby Union on being chosen to host the prestigious U20 Championship in 2017,” stated World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset when making the announcement last week.

As well as the Georgian Rugby Union, whose tireless work has seen rugby rival if not surpass football in terms of national popularity, the Georgian government has pledged funds for the hosting of the tournament which helped to secure the decision.

“I’d also like to thank the Georgian government for its investment in hosting the tournament. The future stars of world rugby will enjoy a great event in 2017, with unique hospitality and a warm welcome in a country that boasts such a rich cultural and sporting heritage,” said Lapasset in an extremely complimentary speech.

The decision, which was made in Dublin, was unanimous and the event is expected to take place in June 2017, although no fixed dates have been confirmed as yet.

This year’s Under-20 World Cup begins next month and takes place in Italy although Georgia are not among the 12 participating nations.

However, with the duty of hosting the 2017 event comes a confirmed place in the tournament which will allow the Georgian youngsters to gain valuable experience against their peers from the world’s strongest rugby nations.

Understandably, the affable yet statesman-like Giorgi Nijaradze, President of the Georgian Rugby Union, was thrilled with the decision.

“Hosting the World Rugby Under-20 Championship is the highest honor, not only for Georgian rugby, but for the whole country,” said Nijaradze.

Fully aware of the significance of Georgia being trusted with such an important occasion on the world rugby calendar, Nijaradze expressed satisfaction at the forward strides rugby was making both in the country and abroad.

“This tournament will enhance Georgia’s international profile and hopefully attract a large number of people to visit our country and enjoy its rich culture and famous Georgian hospitality,” he added.

Georgia climbed to 14th in the world rankings in the Spring following another European Nations Cup grand slam. And, as they leapfrogged Italy in the process, talk of Georgian entry to the coveted Six Nations championship emerged in various British newspapers.

That step still seems unlikely in the immediate future but there is little doubt that Georgia will continue to knock at the door of top level European rugby if it continues its momentum both on and off the field.

World Rugby Head of Competition and Performance, Mark Egan congratulated Georgia on winning the right to host the 2017 championships and noted the impressive evolution underway in Georgian rugby.

“There has been a remarkable transformation in the standard of rugby facilities in Georgia over the past seven year thanks to a multi-million dollar facility investment programme funded by the Cartu foundation and supported by the Georgian government,” stated Egan.

“The awarding of this prestigious tournament to Georgia is just reward for the outstanding progress that the union is making at all levels of the game,” he added.

Tbilisi will play host to the majority of the championships although Kutaisi is expected to host some matches, a reflection of the immense popularity rugby enjoys in the West of the country.

Alastair Watt

23 May 2015 14:04