CAPTAIN FANTASTIC: Mamuka Gorgodze, in action for Toulon, is an inspiration for his Georgian teammates
BRISTOL, 14 Sept – Georgia’s talismanic captain Mamuka Gorgodze says he is fully fit for the game's biggest stage after a season plagued by injury in France’s Top 14 competition.
At 31 years old, the imposing Georgian giant, playing in his third World Cup at England 2015, had enjoyed a relatively injury-free career in France since joining Montpellier in 2005, playing almost all their matches in the six seasons prior to his move to Toulon in 2014.
But in his first season at his new club he suffered consecutive ligament injuries to both knees, starting just 10 matches and making 16 appearances in total.
“Last season was very difficult for me,” he said. “I was in a new team with a lot of competition and I had my ligament injury in my right knee which meant that for eight weeks I could not play.
'Gorgodzilla' rises again
“And then the first game after I came back I suffered the same injury but in my left knee, and I wasn’t able to come back until the end of the season. But now it’s feeling very good and I am 100 per cent.”
The man they call 'Gorgodzilla' in France plays with Levan Chilachava and Kote Mikautadze in Toulon, while other World Cup teammates Davit Zirakashvili and Vito Kolelishvili ply their trade at Clermont. Also in the Top 14 are Davit Kubriashvili at Stade Francais, Kakha Asieshvili at Brive and Mikheil Nariashvili at Montpellier, while other Georgian squad members play in France’s second and third tiers.
“The Georgian forwards play in very good teams in France. We experience the same culture of rugby in France, which is different to the rugby culture in England, and I think this makes it easier to come together and play as a national team when we play in the same championship. Together we will be very powerful,” he said.
Gorgodze, who admires boxer Mike Tyson and basketball legend Michael Jordan, but says he has no specific idols in rugby, believes Georgia’s opening match against Tonga will be crucial in achieving the Lelos’ goal of finishing third in their pool and securing automatic qualification for RWC 2019.
“The Tongan team is a very good team, like the Georgians they are a very faithful team, they are warriors. They are stronger than us, by just a little bit. For Georgia this game is very important and we will do all we can to win, but they are the favourites in this game.”