Georgia to field youngest ever RWC player

Georgia halfback Vasil Lobzhanidze admits the prospect of becoming the youngest player in Rugby World Cup history on Saturday makes him “a little bit nervous.”

The 18-year-old Lobzhanidze was selected on Thursday in the team to play Tonga at Gloucester.

Lobzhanidze will be 18 years and 340 days, beating the record held by American centre Thretton Palamo by 33 days. Palamo played his sole World Cup match against South Africa in 2007, but he’s back for this tournament.

Lobzhanidze, also the first player born in the professional era to appear in a World Cup, was pleased to be a record-setter.

“I am a little bit nervous, but we have a team with a lot of experience, so this makes me less nervous for when I get out on the field,” he said. “My family knows I am playing, and they are very happy, they will be watching for me.”

He will be part of the most experienced ever Georgia team in the Cup, with 617 caps in the starting XV. Their all-time record is 637 from a win over Romania in March.

“If we had a question mark about two guys, and one was more experienced than the other, the experienced guy got the nod because you can’t buy that experience,” coach Milton Haig said.

“And especially with close test matches like it’s going to be on Saturday against Tonga, it’s important to have that experience.”

The most experienced Tonga side (320) since the 2007 Cup will be led by flanker Nili Latu, who extends his national record as captain in a 38th Test.

Georgia: Merab Kvirikashvili, Tamaz Mchedlidze, Davit Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze, Giorgi Aptsiauri, Lasha Malaguradze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mamuka Gorgodze (capt), Viktor Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Konstantine Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze, Davit Zirakashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Mikheil Nariashvili. Reserves: Shalva Mamukashvili, Karlen Asieshvili, Levan Chilachava, Levan Datunashvili, Shalva Sutiashvili, Giorgi Begadze, Giorgi Pruidze, Muraz Giorgadze.

Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Telusa Veainu, Will Helu, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Viliami Ma’afu, Nili Latu (capt), Sione Kalamafoni, Sitiveni Mafi, Tukulua Lokotui, Holani ‘Aulika, Elvis Taione, Tevita Mailau. Reserves: Paula Ngauamo, Sona Taumalolo, Sila Puafisi, Hale T Pole, Jack Ram, Samisoni Fisilau, Latiume Fosita , Sione Piukala.

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