Former British Rugby Players Rate Georgians 'The Sleeping Giants'


Rugby is our sport, Georgians say, and so far, the national team has done its best to prove this to be the case. With an important match against first tier Wales scheduled on November 18, a BBC Sport’s filming crew arrived in Tbilisi to make a documentary about Georgian Rugby. GEORGIA TODAY seized the opportunity to ask the two player-turned-presenters (at national level, no less), David Flatman (England) and Tom Shanklin (Wales) to share their take on the sport that’s so beloved in Georgia

What is the purpose of your documentary and when was the first time you actually started to take notice that Georgia’s getting quite good at Rugby?

David Flatman, former England Rugby player: We know Georgia is a very good team so we’ve come here to dig below the surface and find out why they’re improving so much and so quickly.

Tom Shanklin, former Wales Rugby player: Georgian Rugby really caught my attention in 2015, at the World Cup, when they played the All Blacks and even managed to get the first try! That was a glorious first half. It was 22 to 10 for the All Blacks and that's when we and I guess, the rest of the world too, really stood up and took notice that this Georgian team was something special.

So, if the world is taking notice, how would you assess our chances of getting into the prestigious Six Nations tournament anytime soon? Especially considering we are ahead of Italy in the rankings…

DF: First of all, lots of people think Georgia should be in the Six Nations already, but to be rather blunt, in the grand scheme of things, it's only been good for about five minutes. So it takes time, and, for Georgia to be included, one of the top six nations has to be removed. And that’s easier said than done – just because someone has had a few bad years, it’s quite difficult to remove them, so it takes time again.

You've attended the team’s trainings, spoken with the coaching stuff. What’s your take? How do you rate Georgian rugby and the national team?

DF: Truth be told, in Britain we look at Georgian players and we say: wow, that’s some pure genetics! Their genetics are maybe the best in the world, definitely one of the best in the world. They’re very big, very strong, powerful and aggressive. But you need more than that to be good at top level rugby.

TS: The more tier 1 teams Georgia plays, the better, because that’s invaluable experience.

If you were to predict, what chances have we got against Wales?

TS: I think it will be a close game. As david correctly noticed, Georgians are very big, very physical, so I don’t think it will have many problems defensively. But then again, they need to score tries, they have to be creative and that is the issue that Georgia have at the moment. You’ll have to give the players time to learn to be creative because that’s not something that comes as naturally as the power. But it will come, as you've now got some of the top notch, world-acclaimed coaching staff here. With their mentorship, and with the team as tightly knit as Georgia's is, it will come. If I’d have to characterize Georgian rugby in two words, it would be sleeping giants. That’s what they really are.

By Vazha Tavberidz

09 November 2017 19:19