Georgia and France to Square Off in Rugby Match Next Week in Tbilisi

On Thursday, May 31st, Tbilisi will host a historic rugby match between the Georgian national team, the Lelos, and the Barbarians – the second national team of the French Rugby Federation. The game will be played at Dinamo Stadium in Tbilisi, capacity 54,549. One reason this game is so important is that the result will affect Georgia's international rankings. Georgia is currently ranked 12th in the world by World Rugby.

According to the President of the Georgian Rugby Union, Gocha Svanadze, the game was organized on the basis of a memorandum of cooperation between the Georgian and French rugby unions. Bernard LaPorte, President of the French Rugby Union, made a statement in advance of the upcoming match:

"Georgia occupies an important place in international rugby and hence, the French Rugby Union has accepted the offer with great pleasure to hold this match. I know that these two incomparable teams respect and share same values, they love their profession and commit themselves to this type of sport. It does not matter how the game will end, they will still share respect and love between each other.”

In the 2018 Rugby European Championship, the premier rugby union competition outside of the Six Nations Championship in Europe, Georgia took home the title by beating Romania in the finals in Tbilisi 25-16. It was Georgia’s 10th Rugby European Championship title. The French Barbarians are one of the strongest teams in the rugby world. In 2016 they defeated Australia 19–11, and in late 2017 they beat the Māori All Blacks 19–15 in the Autumn internationals.

Rugby is one of the most popular sports in Georgia. The National Federation’s slogan is “Rugby is our game.” Although the sport does not have as large of a fanbase as football does in Georgia, and with professional salary standards much lower than other sports, there is less flash and glamour to attract young fans. The national team has had phenomenal success on the national stage compared to other Georgian sports. They qualified for the Rugby World Cup four times, first in 2003 – playing against rugby powers such as England and South Africa. The Lelos recorded their first ever World Cup win in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, where they beat Namibia 30–0. 

Tickets for the May 31st match are on sale now.


By Samantha Guthrie

Photo: Georgia Today

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22 May 2018 17:41