The popularity of the game in Georgia can be traced back to a ‘folk-sport’ called ‘lelo’ or ‘lelo burti’ which was a full contact event dating back to ancient times. Indeed in the Georgian language the word ‘lelo’ is taken to mean ‘try’.
The ancient game was usually played between neighboring villages with a heavy round ball and the referee was the local priest. Now there’s a thought!
The development of rugby in Georgia can clearly be linked to the Soviet Union and France. In the 1970s and 1980s about one third of the USSR team was Georgian. Post World War 2 an Armenian from France called Jacques Haspekian from Marseilles taught the game to students in Tbilisi on the racecourse thereby forming the first modern rugby club now known as ‘Qochebi’.
In 1992 Georgia played its first ’international’ match against Zimbabwe and won 16 pts-3.
In 1997, New Zealander Ross Meurant arrived as the National coach. He found the national team had only two balls which was typical of the lack of resources facing Georgia. The tackle bags were: “denim material stitched together on a domestic sewing machine and stuffed with rubber”.
The wife of another coach had stayed up half the night making them! In another supreme act of improvisation the rugby people converted old Soviet tractors into scrummage machines. Hence, and as a huge mark of respect, the Georgian National side is known as the ‘Tractor Men.
The ARMIA rugby club is part of the Sports Club ARMIA Club based in Tbilisi and plays at the Avchala Stadium. It is a multi-discipline sport organization which excels in rugby and basketball. It was founded in 1997 and is a part of the Georgia Ministry Of Defense. Rugby Club Armia plays in the Georgia Premier Division andsince its formation has had considerable success in National tournaments. It became National champions in 2011 and were runners-up in 2013.
The club runs three teams and an Academy of over one hundred players who are all non-professional. Its principal aim is the development of rugby within Georgia and thereby be in a position competitively to participate in international tournaments.
|ISMAIL MARSAGISHVILI||BACK ROW|
|GIGA KATSITADZE||BACK ROW|
|IRAKLI MELIKIDZE||NO. 8|
|LEVAN RATIANI||BACK ROW|
|ZURABI ALBUTASHVILI||BACK ROW|
|LASHA TSIKLAURI||FLY HALF|
|GIORGI DOGONADZE||FLY HALF|
|ZURABI CHIKOPAIDZE||FULL BACK|
|VARLAM KILASONIA||SCRUM HALF|
|VASILI UBILAVA||SCRUM HALF|
|GIGA GURABANIDZE||BACK ROW|
|GIGA CHACHAVA||CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER|
|ZODIKO PARKOSADZE||PRESIDENT SPORTS CLUB ARMIA|
|VALERIAN SIKHARULIDZE||GENERAL STAFF|
|DAVID MINDADZE||VICE-PRESIDENT SPORTS CLUB ARMIA|
|DAVID KILASONIA||HEAD COACH|
|MIKHEIL CHACHUA||ASST. COACH|
David Kilasonia (born 4 June 1951) has had a long and successful career as a sportsman and sports administrator. In Georgia he is an ‘Honoured Sportsman’ and was a playing member of the USSR national rugby team and coach to the USSR ‘A’ team. He is a founder member of the Georgian National Rugby team and was appointed as the first Head Coach.
David has had considerable success as a player and coach with the USSR national team. He holds a prestigious appointment with the Sports Committee of Georgia, is a founder member of the Georgian Olympic Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. He is well remembered as one of the finest rugby players ever produced by Georgia, excelling at half back where he was both the playmaker and a prolific scorer! Thanks to David the Georgian Rugby Union became a member of the International Rugby Board now World Rugby.