Georgia’s 6 Nations Claims Louder than Ever after Rout of Romania

Three tries in each half gave Georgia an em­phatic 38-9 win over Romania in front of more than 50,000 ecstatic supporters at the Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi on the early evening of March 19, a result and an attendance which reverberated around the world of rugby.

Clinching yet another European Nations Cup, Georgian fans greeted their heroes euphorically during a richly deserved lap of honor while head coach Milton Haig’s jubilation alongside his two daughters on the Dinamo pitch was clearly visible.

In a swashbuckling display, tries from Anton Peikrishvili (2), Alexandre Todua, Giorgi Pruidze, Giorgi Nemsadze and Karlen Asieshvili steered the Lelos to an historic triumph.

The 29-point winning margin represents Georgia’s biggest win over Romania, traditionally seen as Eastern Europe’s main rugby power, but now struggling to keep up with a Georgian side that overtook them years ago and continues to warrant serious consideration for entry into the Six Nations.

Newspapers and rugby commentators across Western Europe, reflecting on another underwhelming Six Nations campaign for Italy who now lie two places below Georgia in the world rankings, have again been raising the Georgia question this week.

Not only have Georgia gone more than four years without a defeat in the European Nations Cup, essentially a second-tier Six Nations, they have now twice in the space of two years attracted a crowd of over 50,000 for a rugby international against a lesser side (the other occasion being 2014 v Russia).

It is worth considering for a moment what kind of crowd Scotland or Italy would attract to a home rugby international with Romania. Sparse, is the answer.

Add to that the unprecedented two group victories at last year’s World Cup and Georgia’s case for stiffer regular opposition is stronger than ever. Wales head coach Warren Gatland has already questioned whether a relegation/promotion play-off could be initiated, a thought not echoed in increasingly twitchy Italian rugby circles.

Perhaps Georgia suffers for its location. Welcoming Italy to the fold at the turn of the century, increasing the Five Nations to Six, seemed a straight forward transition with a trip to Rome hardly an imposition for players, fans or pundits.

While tourism is growing here, Georgia and Tbilisi remains off the beaten track and is a six-hour charter flight from London. Were the exploits of Georgian rugby being carried out by Spain, Germany or Netherlands, you wonder whether the reception would be quite so lukewarm.

Georgia will visit Scotland in the fall, upon the delivery of a promise by the IRB to give tier two nations like Georgia more experience against tier one sides. It is a step in right direction, but a small one.

Hosting Georgia is one thing, but you don’t appreciate the passion and potential of Georgian rugby until you experience it in their backyard. The Lelos have earned the right not only to play the elite nations, but to host them. Bring England, Ireland or Wales to Tbilisi for a test and the penny might just drop.

Alastair Watt

24 March 2016 21:02