Rugby World Cup
Japan success fails to overshadow Georgia's greatest World Cup win
Rob Bartlett
September 21, 2015

Japan was not the only nation enjoying celebrations of a famous World Cup upset on Saturday - the Georgian capital of Tbilisi was bouncing.

Shortly before the Brave Blossoms secured one of sport's biggest shocks in Brighton, Georgia downed Pool C rivals Tonga in Gloucester to notch only the third World Cup victory in their history. It was a triumph that sparked scenes of celebration back home.

"I spoke with my parents and friends and they said all of Tbilisi, which is quite a large city with over one million people, were sounding their car horns, waving their flags, drinking and celebrating. There were a lot of emotions," try-scoring captain Mamuka Gorgodze said during a press conference at the team's Bristol hotel.

"I think it's the biggest victory in Georgian history at the World Cup. It was the biggest and best feeling you can imagine. Maybe people were wondering why we were so happy right after the match, but for us in Georgia, coming from a small country, we are still developing our rugby, it's still growing, and this was a huge step forward. It was really important for us to win this match and we are so happy.

"For me, it's the best victory in my career, because at a World Cup we've never beaten such a big team. We beat Samoa in Georgia in 2013, but at a World Cup we've never beaten such a big, strong team as Tonga."

Japan may have stolen the headlines everywhere else, but the magnitude of Georgia's victory should not go unnoticed. Tbilisi celebrated like it had done 34 years ago as the Lelos' win stirred memories of another of its famous sporting victories.

"In 1981 Dinamo Tbilisi won the Cup Winner's Cup in football, and everyone is saying this victory is the same - it was the same emotion in the city," added forward Giorgi Nemsadze. "We aren't there to enjoy it and see the celebrations ourselves which is a shame. Everyone is saying it's amazing, everyone is talking about us, and everyone is smiling and full of emotion."

Some 2,700 miles away in southwest England, the mood in the Kingsholm dressing room reflected that of Tbilisi. Georgia's aim in England is to win two Pool C matches and finish third in the group, which would bring automatic qualification for a World Cup - in this case Japan 2019 - for the first time in their history.

However, while spirits are high, they know the job is not done yet. They face Argentina in Gloucester on Friday, before taking on the All Blacks in Cardiff and finally Namibia in Exeter on October 7.

"In the changing room the atmosphere was amazing," Nemsadze added. "For four years we've been working and preparing for this game, and we put everything into it. We had all the right ingredients, we had all the right preparation the past few months and we got the result we were aiming for.

"We have said that our goal here is to win two matches, against Tonga and Namibia. Now that we've won our first, we will continue to play all our matches with the same intention. Why not a victory against Argentina? Who knows what will happen, but we will come out on to the pitch to win all our games now."

Mamuka Gorgodze celebrates Georgia's victory over Tonga
Mamuka Gorgodze celebrates Georgia's victory over Tonga© Matt Lewis - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

And much like Japan head coach Eddie Jones encouraged his players to enjoy their moment of history against the Springboks, the Georgians were also granted a night off.

"The coaches said we were free to celebrate last night [Saturday], so we went into town in Bristol," Nemsadze said. "We had a few drinks, not a lot, because we still have work to do, but we celebrated for sure."

Flanker Vito Kolelishvili added: "We had two or three beers, the whole team together. We went on a little tour in town, it wasn't anything huge because our job is not finished, but we celebrated a little."

Should Georgia secure that second win, though, a weekend break in Tbilisi might not be a bad idea.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.