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The 'brilliant bloke' Gloucester verdict on their Georgian gamble

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images for Gloucester Rugby)

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Gloucester boss George Skivington has given his verdict on Giorgi Kveseladze, the unheralded Georgian international that the Gallagher Premiership club took a punt on in December 2020 just weeks after he scored an Autumn Nations Cup try versus Ireland. At the time he was a 23-year-old semi-pro playing for RC Armazi Marneuli. However, that mesmerising solo Test try put him on the radar after it left the legendary Irish midfielder Brian O’Driscoll, a veteran of four successive Lions tours, singing his praises on Twitter.

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“If I was a European club looking for a centre next year (contract dependent) I’d be having a serious look at Giorgi Kveseladze (13) for Georgia. Besides the excellent try, he really gets the defensive part of his game too. Abrasive and hard working. Could have been MOTM.”

While outside centre Kveseladze wasn’t the man of the match that afternoon, his score was voted the best try of the Autumn Nations Cup and it wasn’t long before Gloucester snapped him up. Sixteen months later he has played on 14 occasions for the English club and is set to make his 15th appearance when starting in Wednesday night’s Premiership Cup semi-final at Kingsholm versus Worcester. 

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All the while at Gloucester, Kveseladze has kept his international career ticking over, starting against France last November and helping Georgia to qualify for the 2023 World Cup. How then does Gloucester rate his progress? “Giorgi is a quality player,” said Skiviongton when asked by RugbyPass for his assessment of the Georgian’s development since his switch to full-time rugby in England.

“You remember that try he scored against Ireland, it was outstanding. There is obviously a period of getting used to the intensity of the Premiership and the way things are done, but he has been brilliant. He works unbelievably hard, he is working at his game and learning English. He is really working hard to be a part of it and he has got a really bright future. 

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“There has not been enough rugby probably this year to really break him into the scene and he has been away with Georgia quite a few times throughout the year for games, so the balance hasn’t been exactly where we want it to be with how much we have had our hands on him. But in terms of a rugby player and a bloke, he is a brilliant bloke and I think he has got real scope to be a really talented rugby player. 

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“What Giorgi does well is he came in very raw, he could almost shoot out of the defensive line and then somehow make a misread and come back it and cover it. That’s really impressive but what we want him to do is use that energy at the right times and be in the systems and that sort of thing.

“When he has, he had a great game against Bristol in the Prem Cup last time around. He played twelve, as he is against Worcester, and I thought he was outstanding. I then had a conversation with him about how much he has played at twelve and he said he actually likes playing twelve. 

“His progress is gradual. As I say, we would like to have more time with him than we have the last season because he has been over in Georgia a fair few times playing games for them. It takes a little bit of time but I have a lot of faith that he will be a very, very good player.”

Does the potential long-term success of Kveseladze in the game encourage Skivington to go off-road again to recruit similar unknown overseas talents for Gloucester? “I’m very open. Our big focus is on young English players from Gloucester. That is the route that we are going down. 

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“But guys like Giorgi, if you can find gems from other nations, especially ones in leagues that are not necessarily of Premiership standard, if you can find quality within that that is obviously brilliant. It’s easier said than done but absolutely, I am very open to bringing anyone in who is hungry and wants to learn.”

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