A traditional precursor to any International Rugby Board tournament is the captain’s photo and with only days until the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2011 kicks off in Georgia, the eight captains came together in an iconic place in the capital Tbilisi.
Surrounded by mountains and bisected by the Mt’k’vari (Kura) River, Tbilisi was founded in the fifth century and has been the capital city since the sixth century. It is also currently the largest city, home to nearly 1.5 million of a total population of more than four million.
The eight participating nations – hosts Georgia, 2008 champions Uruguay, former runners up USA and Japan, Canada, Russia, Zimbabwe and Samoa – have all arrived and settled ahead of Tuesday’s kick-off.
The captains, dressed in their national strips, were taken to the Metekhi Church, which is nestled above the banks of the Kura River and has the Narikala Fortress in the background, for the traditional photograph.
A few recognised each other from last year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy in Russia, and as the minutes passed the players began to relax, the initial seriousness broken as the conversation began to flow before they lined up with the trophy.
World Cup dreams
Keisuke Uchida (Japan), Will Magie (USA), Stanislav Sel’skiy (Russia), Agustín Ormaechea (Uruguay), David Losaberidze (Georgia), Marco Mama (Zimbabwe), Tyler Ardron (Canada) and Patrick Fa’apale (Samoa) all hope to lift the trophy after the final whistle on 5 June.
Losaberidze, already capped at senior level by Georgia, admitted that the hosts “are here to win the tournament and get promoted to the Junior World Championship”, while Ormaechea, the second son of former Uruguay captain and coach Diego and brother of Juan, a JWRT winner in 2008, added “another goal is to enjoy ourselves and use this experience positively.”
The consensus among captains was their target of playing at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, but for a couple the dream could come true much quicker, with a seat on the plane to New Zealand later this year.
“I am in the long list at the moment,” explained Canadian captain Ardron. “I will give it my best, but my big dream is 2015.” Sel’skiy is also in contention to be part of Russia’s historic first Rugby World Cup appearance, admitting “that would be very, very good for me.”
Samoa fly half Fa’apale has two goals, one for the team, to ensure his country’s absence from the IRB Junior World Championship is a brief one following their relegation last year, and then a personal one, “I see myself in England in four years time.”
The first IRB tournament to be held in Georgia kicks off on Tuesday when Samoa tackle 2009 runners up USA and Russia meet Uruguay in Pool A, as 2010 runners up Japan face Zimbabwe and the hosts then complete day one against Canada in Pool B.