Shalva Mamukashvili


Rugby is a conservative, aristocratic sport.

Like boxing.

It works with tiers.

Crossing the results is never really enough to go forward.

It can't be enough, because you have to demonstrate on the field, beating those who are better than you, that you are worth as much or more than them.

And if this opportunity is only given to you once a year, it’s doubly difficult to be able to do something great, because everything is concentrated there.

Year after year, a whole life in 80 minutes.

Georgia has been independent since 1991, when the Soviet Union disappeared and, since that day, we have grown one step at a time.

Baby steps.

Our economy has suffered from the change, and it took years to start talking seriously about sport, to think about it like professionals.

In the late 1990s the best players went abroad, mostly to France, in an attempt to make rugby a real work.

And maybe even to bring back some skills to share with those who stayed at home.

Knowledge, with us, has always belonged to everyone.

Shalva Mamukashvili

I was born in Tbilisi, just when the USSR stopped being the USSR and Georgia went back to being just Georgia.

I started playing rugby so early that it's really impossible for me to separate my memories with the ball from those without.

It has always been my way of expressing myself.

My space.

What allowed me to tell others who I am.

I spent half of my life in the scrum, because in the crum there was everything I needed to be happy, and everything I still need to be happy.

I loved rugby in all its aspects from the first moment.

I never wanted to try other sports.

I have never stopped feeling at home.

Friendships are born on the field that last forever.

It may be simple, but it's also true. Because when someone puts his head in the mud for you, there's no way if breaking that bond anymore.

Obstacles that if you cross make you stronger.

And obstacles that, if they break you, then you fix yourself, and you get stronger anyway.

Maybe not physically, but in the head, or in the relationship with others.

Shalva Mamukashvili
Shalva Mamukashvili

Rugby takes your health, slowly.

But it gives you everything else.

I can't imagine myself without it, and I have no intention of doing so.

I don't, and neither do my wife and children, because they know I can't be separated from rugby.

In no way.

Without it, it wouldn't be me.

I would just be a man who looks like me.

And for me, there's always been something different about putting on a Georgia jersey. It's like: when you put it on for the first time it's impossible to take it off.

I don't know if it's “more” than what happens in the other national teams, but here you can breathe the feeling of being inside a great story.

Part of it, all together.

Like a family, which doesn't stop being a family if things go wrong and doesn't stop being a family if things go right.

Family is family, you can't help it but love it the way it is.

And this is how the national team works for us, where everyone is happy and nobody is new.

Nobody is a guest.

Not even foreign coaches.

Shalva Mamukashvili

With difficulty we have become a symbol of our country, and the first national team to qualify for a World Cup, in 2003, in Australia and New Zealand.

For all of us, it was like landing on the moon.

And I hoped with all my strength that, sooner or later, it would be my turn to wear the Lelos shirt and travel the world with my friends.

To finally put my hands and head in the mud too.

And to experience the moments I've been waiting for all my life.

Like the victories in 2022, against Italy and against Wales, at the Milleniun Stadium, when we forced everyone all over the World to watch us.

Watch our team.

Look at our country.

Or like the match against Samoa, in my third year, 2013, when they were number 8 in the world and I thought the night before that it could be a good result not to be embarrassed.

We had little, besides our hearts and our uniforms.

We won 16 to 15, like the number of players on the field, plus 1.

Where the +1 was precisely being Georgian.

Over 90 games later, I have many more bruises and scars, but also many special memories, a World Cup to play and only three caps separating me from the one hundred mark.

Which isn't bad for someone who was born in a country that wasn't even existing.

I don't know how many seasons and how many games are still there for me, and that's why I want to treasure everything I’m living.

I am rugby.

Shalva Mamukashvili / Contributor

Shalva Mamukashvili