Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze is pleased his prediction for England new boy Jonny Hill proved correct ahead of Saturday’s reunion between the pair in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Nine years ago the centre joined the Exeter lock at Hartpury College, with Ellis Genge also part of their successful squad.
Together the trio helped the Gloucester-based college clinch silverware at Twickenham in 2012 and this weekend they will be back there, with Hill hoping to make a first start for his country at HQ.
“That was quite a good experience,” Sharikadze said. “They are very good boys and good friends of mine. I wish them the best of luck and I learnt a lot from them.
“Both of them were quite special. I remember, probably Jonny doesn’t, but we were going together to college at the same time as playing for the Hartpury College team.
“One day he was upset about something, I can’t remember what, and saying he would probably never make the big rugby.
“But I was looking at him thinking ‘just wait, you will be one of best in world’ and he probably doesn’t even remember that. I do and he deserves it, he is probably one of the best players in the world now.”
In addition to renewing acquaintances with Hill and Genge, 27-year-old Sharikadze will see Eddie Jones again, who sprung a surprise when he last coached against Georgia in a 2015 World Cup warm-up fixture.
The then head coach of Japan played nine forwards with traditional number eight Hendrik Tui on the wing to combat the Europeans’ physicality.
Sharikadze added: “It was quite weird, obviously it was a tactic and we know how to face that and now it is not going to be new.”
Georgia are only involved in the Autumn Nations Cup because travel logistics complicated by coronavirus ruled out Japan’s participation.
After facing England, Levan Maisashvili will take his squad to Wales and Ireland for further Group A fixtures and the tournament will conclude for the side ranked world number 12 with a match at Murrayfield on December 5.
Captain Sharikadze said: “When we finish this tournament, if we know we are a better team than before the start then we have had a successful Autumn Nations Cup. I am pretty sure we will. We are very motivated.”
Maisashvili, who stepped up from defence coach after the World Cup last year, is excited to go toe to toe with Jones.
“It is a good opportunity, Eddie is the best coach. It is a fact,” he said.
“To play against England is also a big opportunity. It will be hard but it is good for our players, for me and also very interesting.”
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