Tbilisi (AFP)

As a small and growing rugby nation, Georgia is hoping that the 2019 World Cup in Japan will bring them closer to their dream of being one of the big names and finally to the quarter-finals.

"Our destiny is to be part of the elite of world rugby," said AFP president of the Georgian Rugby Federation, Gocha Svanidze. "This is what we are striving for and this World Cup will be a step in that direction."

Since its first participation in 2003, Georgia has not missed any World Cup with an honorable record of four wins for twelve losses. His first win came in 2007 with a 30-0 victory over Namibia and his best performance in 2015, when the small Caucasian squad finished third in their group, behind New Zealand and Argentina.

"We hope to beat Fiji and Uruguay and repeat our feat of the previous World Cup," said AFP Merab Sharikadze, captain of "Lelos" and Aurillac player (Pro D2).

In his image, Georgia should have at the Mondial-2019 a strong French accent, no less than 17 players in the Top 14 or Pro D2. Among them, Toulon's Mamuka Gorgodze (35, 71 caps) has an unexpected comeback, more than two years after announcing her international retirement.

The experienced third row will not be too much in a team not spared by injuries, private including Giorgi Tsutskiridze (Aurillac) or Vito Kolelishvili (Clermont), victim of a concussion in October 2018 and who did not repressed the lawns since.

Currently ranked 12th in the world, Georgia owes its nickname - the Lelos - to an old traditional sport in the villages of this mountainous country, considered in Georgia as a local variant of modern rugby, the most popular sport in the country.

© 2019 AFP