School Visit Cements Wales-Georgia Rugby Ties

Pupils of St David’s College in North Wales rounded off a memorable trip to Georgia on April 5, the first visit of its kind by a British school.

In a packed itinerary, the youngsters were treated to a veritable feast of rugby, with some local culture and cuisine typically thrown in along the way.

Their opening rugby match proved to be something of an education for the Welsh visitors, who were well beaten by Georgia’s under-16s. Prior to the match, the away side gave a superb rendition of the Welsh anthem “Bread of Heaven” on the steps of the Shevardeni base, met by warm applause from some of their Georgian opponents.

Head of Physical Education at St David’s, Dan Lycett, was making a fourth trip to Georgia having visited previously as captain of the Bulldogs team who participate at the annual beach rugby tournament in Batumi.

Lycett, a former pupil at the same school, outlined the benefit and importance of the trip: “This is my second year in this role, and since I started I wanted to reinvigorate rugby in the school. Sport is important when it comes to boosting morale, and with regards to Georgia it is also vital that UK schools come to places like this, to raise awareness.”

In the role of Tour Support was Anthony Lynn, a seasoned veteran of travelling to Georgia who has been coming here since 2006, initially for an IRB project and then joining forces with Lycett and others on the Black Sea for the beach rugby competition.

“The hospitality is second to none, and the passion for rugby is as strong as in Wales, if not stronger,” claimed Lynn, a native of Yorkshire but now based in the rugby hotbed of Gloucestershire in southwest England.

The tour composed of visits to Rustavi and Gori where top-level rugby matches were enjoyed, while the party were also greeted by British Ambassador and rugby enthusiast Justin McKenzie-Smith.

Team captain Harri Mostyn-Jones, 18, who was singled out for praise by one of the Georgian academy coaches, was thoroughly impressed with the Georgian experience: “The people have been really nice and they’ll do anything for you, and it’s also been good to see different parts of the country”.

He also described the aforementioned clash with the physically overbearing under-16s as “painful, very physical and ‘up in your face’”.

The boys were also put through their paces by Georgian head coach Milton Haig and some of his staff, which Mostyn-Jones and his teammates considered a real privilege.

The sun shone suitably on the last day of the St David’s tour on which the Welsh boys took on local side RC Khvamli while both sides were met and congratulated by the President of the Georgian Rugby Union, Gocha Svanidze.

The touring party were overwhelmed by their time in Georgia and they will all hope to be in attendance in Cardiff in early November when Wales play Georgia in an autumn test,

The tour was supported by the Georgian Rugby Union, Kemsley Tours, Education and Training International (ETI) and Rhino Rugby Georgia.

Alastair Watt

06 April 2017 20:49