Wales v Georgia: Merab Sharikadze targets Pro14 franchise place


Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze plays his club rugby in the French second tier
Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze plays his club rugby in the French second tier
Venue: Parc y Scarlets Date: Sat 21 Nov Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra; commentary on the BBC Sport website and app; live on S4C

Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze says a franchise place in the Pro14 would be the best way to improve his country’s rugby development.

Georgia have eight French-based professionals in the starting team to face Wales.

But Sharikadze feels it would benefit the nation’s top players to combine in a Georgian franchise instead.

“That would be the best solution, as long as the Pro14 is ready to become Pro15,” he said.

“We’ve had players in France for years now, for the moment it’s probably the only way to have better players in our (national) team.

“But for the future if we want to grow as a rugby nation, we have to have one franchise team ourselves, otherwise it will be very hard if we only depend on players who play abroad.”

The Pro14 currently has teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, and South Africa where it is still unsure how many teams will be taking part in the tournament in the future.

While Georgia are 12th in the World Rugby rankings, two places ahead of Six Nations strugglers Italy, 68-cap centre Sharikadze is reluctant to push the Lelos’ claims for a place at the top tier of European rugby too strongly at the moment.

“We want to prove we are a team that can compete, has space to grow and we are the people they can consider in the future to be part of it,” he told BBC Sport Wales.

“Italy is much more experienced than we are, but if we have more experience, more games like this, at some stage we could be up there.”

Sharikadze led Georgia in their 13-6 defeat in Cardiff in 2017, when they were unlucky not to draw as much-changed Wales benefited from a move to passive scrums in the closing moments.

But after a 40-0 loss to England last weekend and a 48-7 defeat in a friendly against Scotland, Sharikadze does not want to predict a victory for a Georgia team which is yet to recover its cohesion after the coronavirus break.

“It’s a very good opportunity for us to grow as a team, to see ourselves improve from the last game, that’s how we grow,” he said.

“Maybe the (Welsh) players are not as experienced as their first picks, but they are stars and very good players so it doesn’t change much for us.”

An injury to Wales back-rower Ross Moriarty means Sharikadze will be denied a reunion with another former team-mate from Gloucester’s Hartpury College.

The 2012 team produced England forwards Ellis Genge and Jonny Hill, Ireland fly-half Billy Burns and Italy scrum-half Callum Braley.

“That was an amazing experience, we won the (universities) championship of course and I’m still in touch with Ross,” said Sharikadze.

BBC News