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Georgia beats Russia

By Messenger Staff
Monday, March 22
The Georgian national rugby team beat the Russian national team 36-8 in Trabzon, Turkey in a Rugby World Cup qualifying match on Saturday. By doing this Georgia won the European Nations Cup and thus secured the 'Europe 1' berth at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Georgia will now play in the same pool as 2003 winners England, Scotland and Argentina at the finals in New Zealand. President Saakashvili held a reception for the team in the Presidential Palace yesterday in honour of its achievements.

The Georgian team was clearly superior to the Russian in every respect. Once again they showed that despite the complexity of rugby's tactics a simple approach to the game is often the best. You can tell which position a Georgian plays just by looking at him, without seeing the number on his shirt, as they all have the build specified in the coaching manuals. Against Russia Georgia's strength was in its forwards, who were not only bigger and stronger but also quicker in thought and action as the modern game demands. Dominating in scrum and lineout they concentrated on bursting right through the middle of the Russian pack rather than trying to spin the ball wide for the sake of it. Highlights of the game included Georgia's tight head prop scoring with a mazy ten yard run like a threequarter and another try from a forty yard rolling maul. Throughout the match it took at least two Russians to bring down every Georgian, thus creating plenty of space for Georgia to go through the phases, though they hardly needed to do so with the opposition unable to resist their forward power.

The Russian team, back in red after its post-Communist insistence on green, seemed to have two ideas: run with the ball from the most ridiculous positions or kick it as far downfield as possible just to pen the opposition back. They did not have the players to pounce forward and make the most of the latter tactic under the "use it or lose it" law. Running wasn't going to get Russia anywhere against a drift defence of people who seemed several inches taller. It would probably have been better for Russia to try and tie up Georgian defenders in the same way Georgia was tying up theirs, but with Georgia achieving so many turnovers in the rucks they would have had to hope for an isolated breakaway opportunity even here. Russia had already qualified for the Rugby World Cup before the game, but so had Georgia, so both sides had equal motivation.

The world remembers that Georgia almost beat Ireland in the last Rugby World Cup. As the European Championship is not widely followed in the major rugby playing countries most are unaware that this Georgian team, having gained matches against very strong opponents on the strength of its 2007 performance, is probably a degree or two superior. Never in the history of rugby has any nation made such progress in such a short time as Georgia. Furthermore the fact that Georgia has reached world level in rugby union is a cause for celebration. What distinguishes rugby as a sport is that it can be played by people of all shapes, sizes and talents, such are the diverse demands of the various positions. By uniting all the talents available in the country, not just those of one group, Georgia has become European Champion and gained the respect of the world. The sport which demands the greatest unity in diversity has given Georgia its best results.

Any sporting contest between Georgia and Russia inevitably has political overtones. The message of this one is that if Russia really does send in the tanks Georgia just has to line the rugby team up across Rustaveli Avenue. The Russians will go straight home if they have any sense.

Georgia: five tries (Zirakishvili, Chkheidze, Udesiani, pushover and penalty try), four conversions (Kvirikashvili) and one drop goal (Kvirikashvili).

Russia: one try, one penalty.