For Georgia, the road to rugby goes through France

Georgia faced the XV of France on Sunday in Bordeaux.

The slogan fits them like a glove. The Corrèze in autumn has little to do with the landscapes of the Caucasus, but the motto “All fellows”, which adorns several streets of Brive-la-Gaillarde, could have been written for the Georgian section of the Brive Corrèze Limousin Athletic Club, the local rugby team. ” We are good here “, confides behind his red beard the international scrum half Vasil Lobzhanidze, one of the six Georgians of the Corrèze club. Here, in Brive, and in France, a country whose destiny is closely linked with the small Caucasian nation in matters of oval.

The Lelos (nickname of the team) face the XV of France, in Bordeaux, Sunday, November 14 at 2 p.m. “It’s a very important meeting, we want to show our progress, blows the 25-year-old player, and already more than 50 caps. And then, France is special for us. We will not be too disoriented. “ Of the 33 players called to compete in the autumn tour, 19 play in France (14 in Top 14 and five in Pro D2). Among them, five Brivists.

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Although located more than three thousand kilometers from France, in rugby, Georgia displays an undeniable Francophilia. “France has had a major influence on the development of Georgian rugby, exposes Ioseb Tkemaladze, the president of the Georgian Rugby Federation. Claude Saurel, our first foreign coach, is French and he brought a new approach. It was he who saw the potential of Georgian rugby players, in particular the forwards, and created a bridge with France to allow them to come and progress at home. “

Globetrotter trainer – after Béziers, he worked in Morocco and Tunisia in particular – Claude Saurel remembers his first contacts. “A guy came to challenge me, saying: ‘I come from a small country in the Caucasus, we are passionate about rugby. We would like you to come and do an audit with us ”, says the technician from Béziers, now 73 years old. I went there in the summer of 1995, they were coming out of a war [civile avec les indépendantistes d’Abkhazie et d’Ossétie du Sud], the country was upset, and I found myself in a room, in front of ten people with an interpreter and a large board on which was written: “Rugby: lesson n ° 1”. And it was on! “

The “major role” of Claure Saurel

Noting the country’s growing enthusiasm for its sport, the French coach got down to work. Despite the crying lack of infrastructure. “We had just come out of the civil war, the country was destroyed, no electricity, no gas… There was no way for athletes to train”, remembers George Tchumburidze, long time national technical director of Georgian rugby. At times, the national team is forced to train in car parks or in public gardens; so they decide to send their players to harden in France, taking advantage of their coach’s networks.

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