Georgia Inches Away From World Cup Upset

Georgia inches away from World Cup upset
By Jon Geddes

Daily Telegraph
September 17, 2007 12:00am

THEY are the World Cup minnows with eight rugby fields in the whole
country who turned old Soviet tractors into scrum machines.

But only a video refereeing decision prevented Georgia from pulling
off the biggest upset in RWC history against Six Nations heavyweights
Ireland yesterday morning.

The former Soviet bloc nation received a standing ovation from the
35,000-strong crowd at the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux after a
star-studded Ireland outfit scraped home 14-10.

And now Georgian skipper Ilia Zedginidze has issued an ominous warning
to the traditional powers of European rugby.

"I hope in Georgia rugby will become the No. 1 sport.

That is our aim," he said.

"We can become as strong as the French and the English."

Their stunning effort has even raised calls for Georgia – the country
on the Black Sea which has shared borders with Russia, Turkey,
Armenia and Azerbaijan – to be included in an expanded Eight Nations

It was only the luck of the Irish that prevented the sixth-ranked
side in the world suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of a
country which boasts 15 clubs, 1200 players and 10 referees.

Playing a gritty brand of rugby, the courageous Georgians dominated
in the forward exchanges and continually belted the Irish in defence.

And they delighted the crowd and huge international TV audience with
their no-nonsense approach.

While Ireland filed into their change room at halftime, the Georgians
remained on the field and ate apples.

And didn’t the crowd erupt when their winger Giorgi Shkinin intercepted
a pass and raced 75m to score the try that gave his side an 8-7 lead
early in the second half.

Trailing 14-10 near fulltime, the Georgians launched raid after raid in
Irish territory until they finally drove their more fancied opponents
over the tryline.

In a tense climax, referee Wayne Barnes went upstairs to the video
referee who ruled the Georgians had been held up over the line.

But Ireland were still not out of jail. Right at the death the
Georgians received a penalty and charged the ball into the Irish
forwards, only to knock the ball on and lose their final chance for
a massive boilover.

"We had 70 per cent of possession against Ireland. At the end of
the game we thought we would score the winning try," star forward
Zedginidze said.

"We have regrets that we did not win, but I am so proud of my players.

"Rugby is a respected sport in Georgia and we want to fill the nation
with pride, so it’s important to do well at the World Cups.

"Now most of the players in our squad are professional and compete
in Europe."

In fact, 14 of the starting side against Ireland play professionally
for French clubs.

And the national rugby side has support from the highest levels.

Before leaving for the World Cup, the squad attended a reception at
which they received a blessing from the head of the Orthodox Church
of Georgia, His Holiness Ilia the Second.

"The World Cup is crucial because it increases the sport’s popularity
and that means we get more attention from the government," Zedginidze

Performances like those of Georgia on the weekend and the emotional
scenes^H ^Hthat followed at fulltime are the magic moments in any
World Cup.

It again raises questions about why the IRB would even toy with the
idea of decreasing the numbers of teams in the 2011 tournament from
20 to 16.

Georgia are much improved from the outfit that never even looked like
winning the toss of the coin at the 2003 tournament.

Thursday week’s game with Namibia will be huge and the chance for
Georgia to record their historic first World Cup victory.

^H"Georgia deserve great credit," Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll said.

"I’ve played over 70 Test matches and that was as physical as playing
the top sides."

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS