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Exeter Chiefs sign Georgia's Nika Abuladze

By Ian Cameron
Nika Abuladze of Georgia in action against Thibault Freitas of Portugal during the rugby summer series match between Georgia and Portugal at AIA Arena on July 16, 2022 in Kutaisi, Georgia. (Photo by Levan Verdzeuli/Getty Images)

Exeter Chiefs have signed their first Georgian, securing the services of international prop Nika Abuladze. The 27-year-old loosehead is set to arrive at Sandy Park later this month, once he has completed his international commitments.

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Abuladze’s addition to the Chiefs’ roster is a significant boost to Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter. The new signing is expected to make an impact not just for the remainder of this season, but also over the next two years.

The arrival of Abuladze is particularly noteworthy, as he will be the first-ever Georgian player to feature for the Devon club. However, his reputation precedes him, and his signing has been hailed as a major coup for the Chiefs.

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Standing at 1.85m and weighing in at a hefty 122kg, Abuladze will add considerable bulk to the Chiefs’ front row. He is widely regarded as a talented player, and his experience at international level will undoubtedly prove invaluable to the Exeter squad.

“Having watched him play, I’ve been really impressed with him. He’s like any Georgian, he’s good around the set-piece, but he’s also more mobile than people will think and he’s a very strong ball-carrier.

“Obviously, there will be one or two challenges around the language, but he does understand English pretty well. When I spoke to Rob Hunter (forwards coach) about him, all he asked was can he bend over and push and get us up the field to which I said ‘yes’, so he ticks all the right boxes.”

Abuladze’s imminent arrival will also bolster the loosehead position where the Chiefs have been hit hard. Alec Hepburn, Ben Moon and Billy Keast are all currently sidelined, meaning Wallabies prop Scott Sio has had to play a lot of rugby, whilst James Kenny and Danny Southworth have also been called on to perform despite their relative inexperience.

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“Our DNA over the years has been basing our game around a big, physical pack,” explained Baxter. “If we’re being honest, we’ve not been quite at the level we would have hoped for. However, Nika coming in will not only size and physicality, but he also has international experience as well.

“Right here and now, I’m expecting him to come in and challenge for a place in the 23 straight away and improve our front-row options.”

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