Georgian teenager Vasil Lobzhanidze is set to become the youngest player in Rugby World Cup history after being named in the Lelos’ 31-man squad for England 2015.
The scrum-half does not turn 19 until after the climax of the pool stages of RWC 2015 and if he plays would become the first 18-year-old to grace rugby's showpiece event.
Lobzhanidze made his test debut for Georgia against Germany in the European Nations Cup in February and was a member of their side which won the World Rugby U20 Trophy a couple of months later.
"Our objective in the last two months was to select and train the 'best ever prepared Georgian rugby team to compete at a World Cup' and we certainly think that's what we have achieved."
While Lobzhanidze has only five caps to his name, the most experienced member of Georgia’s squad is full-back Merab Kvirikashvili with 84 caps, four more than forward Giorgi Chkhaidze.
The duo are set for their fourth tournament, having been part of the first Georgian team to play on the Rugby World Cup stage in Australia back in 2003.
Experience and new exciting talent
Georgia’s inspirational back row Mamuka Gorgodze will captain his country at England 2015 with coach Milton Haig having left no stone unturned in their preparations to face New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Namibia in Pool C.
“We’ve been building a competitive squad to compete at the RWC since 2012,” explained coach Milton Haig. “The selection process has been on-going for some months and we have finally come down to the 31 players the will take part.
“The team is a mix of very experienced players and young exciting talent with two players, Merab Kvirikashvili and Giorgi Chkhaidze participating in their fourth Rugby World Cup.
“The squad was debated extensively by the selectors and due to the fact that we have built depth in positions over the last four years, some very good players missed the initial selection.
“However as every other coach has already said after naming their RWC squads, the players that missed out could become very important and could play a major role if there are injuries.
“Our objective in the last two months was to select and train the 'best ever prepared Georgian rugby team to compete at a World Cup' and we certainly think that's what we have achieved.”
The Lelos squad have been put through two phases of preparations, the first a three-week long strength and conditioning camp at the Shevardeni High Performance base in Tbilisi.
After a week off, the squad returned to their base for more S&C sessions before heading to the Centiewo Olympic Base in Poland to take in some more fitness sessions with the added benefit of cryotheraphy to aid their recovery.
Georgia have been in England since 24 August, their first outing ending a 27-7 loss to Newcastle Falcons last weekend, a match which saw try-scoring hooker Zurab Zhvania (elbow) and centre Giorgi Talakhadze (thigh) suffer injuries that rule them out of RWC 2015 contention.
The Lelos have two remaining warm-up matches, against Canada in Esher on Wednesday and then Japan at Kingsholm – the venue with Georgia meet both Tonga and Argentina at RWC 2015 – on Saturday.
Georgia RWC 2015 squad
Forwards: Mikheil Nariashvili, Kakha Asieshvili, Simon Maisuradze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Davit Zirakashvili, Dudu Kubriashvili, Levan Chilachava, Giorgi Chkhaidze, Levan Datunashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Kote Mikautadze, Mamuka Gorgodze (captain), Shalva Sutiashvili, Vito Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Lasha Lomidze.
Backs: Merab Kvirikashvili, Beka Tsiklauri, Giorgi Aptsiauri, Sandro Todua, Tamaz Mtchedlidze, Muraz Giorgadze, Giorgi Pruidze, Davit Katcharava, Merab Sharikadze, Lasha Malaghuradze, Lasha Khmaladze, Giorgi Begadze, Vazha Khutsishvili, Vasil Lobzhanidze.
You can follow the Georgia squad on Twitter
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Photo credit: Tamuna Kulumbegashvili