An elated Georgia believe their Herculean effort against the All Blacks should be reason enough to put them in the Six Nations.
“Then it would be the Seven Nations,” said coach Milton Haig after a stirling performance by his East Europeans saw them hold the world champion All Blacks to 43-10 in their World Cup Pool C game at Millennium Stadium on Friday.
“Obviously I’m a proud coach. I asked the guys before the game to play with a bit of pride, play for the jersey and obviously the country and show the world what Georgian rugby is all about.
“For large parts of the game that’s what we did.”
The All Blacks at near full strength were expected to hammer a Georgian side which held back some of their stars to keep them fresh for their Namibia clash in five days and the chance to finish third in the pool.
But that’s not the way the game panned out with the All Blacks racing to a 22-10 lead in a helter-skelter opening 22 minutes before Georgia kept them scoreless for the next half hour.
“It was pretty plain to see that defensively we put some pressure on the All Blacks and that’s not easy to do,” the New Zealand-born Haig said.
“Certainly when we got our timing right, and our linespeed, we made some good tackles.”
Rugby has come a long way in Georgia since their first Test, a 16-3 win over Zimbabwe 36 years ago.
Now bankrolled by billionaire Picasso collector and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia have won the European Nations Cup for tier two sides for the past five years.
Haig now wanted to see Georgia get some respect internationally and be allowed to step up to play tier one teams on a regular basis.
“Something like that for our development is absolutely crucial to us because in the long run if we develop into a competitive national side, consistently, that’s the kind of competition we need to be in.
He compared Georgia’s possible future to the way Argentinian rugby has improved in the four years that they have been in the Rugby Championship with the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia.
“We understand it is a very difficult decision for the six (nations) partners to make but I think it would grow the game globally,” he said.
“It certainly would open up another big market in eastern Europe and maybe that’s something they should consider.”