Rugby expert supports Georgia’s push for top tier inclusion

Georgia was praised for their World Cup performance against New Zealand by experts and fans alike. Photo from Rugby World Cup., 09 Nov 2015 - 14:04, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s national rugby team may soon find itself playing against top European sides on a regular basis after the top official from Rugby Europe announced its push to enable successful tier two nations the chance to develop their abilities against the best competition.

Rugby Europe president Octavian Morariu is expected to meet representatives from the Six Nations - Europe’s top rugby tournament - over the coming weeks to discuss the idea of giving up-and-coming competitors like Georgia and Romania "greater contact with the tier one nations”.

His comments come after several tier two nations, particularly Georgia, performed impressive Rugby World Cup displays at last month’s competition.

The World Cup gives some countries an exposure which they have to wait four years to repeat. We have seen in this tournament how standards have improved and you cannot let the genie half out of the bottle,” Morariu said while explaining the initiative.

The Six Nations involves England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. It has no relegation and promotion structure to allow top tier two teams entry into the prestigious competition.

Georgia coach Milton Haig highlighted the need for competitive fixtures to ensure his team’s continued progress. Photo from Rugby World Cup.

Calls for changes to allow successful tier two countries to frequently compete with the best teams in Europe were voiced during the Rugby World Cup and after its conclusion on October 31.

The Telegraph’s chief sports feature writer Oliver Brown wrote about the need to overhaul the system in his opinion piece in March while Georgia coach Milton Haig also stressed the importance of the team having opportunities to develop to the next level.

Morariu added his voice to the conversation when he cited the record Rugby World Cup attendance was for the Ireland-Romania match held at London’s Wembley Stadium, which attracted 89,267 spectators. He also mentioned achievements by Romanian and Georgian teams at the tournament to highlight the need for a new approach to promoting rugby across Europe.

I would say to [England's Rugby Football Union Chief Executive] Ian Ritchie you must go to Tbilisi, you must go to Bucharest if you want this game to develop. Small nations must feel that if they work hard they can be rewarded,” said Morariu.
Rugby is played in 48 countries in Europe. The commercial opportunities are enormous because you are talking about a population of 200m. …The game is becoming more open and the World Cup has shown just how much there is to build on,” he added.

Georgia won two games in the tournament against Tonga and Namibia. Its impressive performances, particularly against reigning world champions New Zealand, saw the team gain automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, while captain Mamuka Gorgodze was named alongside the competition’s best players in the World Cup Dream Team.