Lobzhanidze sets new mark for youngest World Cup player

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Jonathan Liew

Vasil Lobzhanidze was 14 years old dur­ing the last World Cup in New Zealand, and claims barely to re­mem­ber it. But to­day, at King­sholm, he will step out with his Ge­or­gian team-mates against Tonga to be­come the youngest player in the history of the tour­na­ment.

Scrum-half Lobzhanidze does not turn 19 un­til next month and he will break the record cur­rently held by the Amer­i­can cen­tre Thret­ton Palamo, who was 19 when he played against South Africa in 2007.

But Ge­or­gia coach Milton Haig said that the teenager was in the side on merit, and would play a cru­cial role in a match both teams must re­al­is­ti­cally win to have any hope of pro­gress­ing be­yond the pool stage.

“It’s an endorsement from the coaches,” said Haig of Lobzhanidze’s se­lec­tion. “It doesn’t mat­ter how old you are; if you’re good enough, you’re good enough, and we cer­tainly think he is.”

Lobzhanidze plays his rugby at Ar­mazi Tbil­isi, and played in all four matches of this year’s World Rugby Un­der-20 Tro­phy, which Ge­or­gia won. How was he feel­ing? “A lit­tle bit ner­vous,” he ad­mit­ted. “Just a few years ago, I would not have imag­ined that I would play for the Ge­or­gian na­tional team, let alone at a World Cup.” The Tonga cap­tain Nili Latu is con­vinced it the for­wards bat­tle will be key. “We have worked re­ally hard on match­ing their for­ward pack. Hope­fully our backs will fin­ish off the game for us.” The Ton­gans have three Glouces­ter play­ers in the squad, with Sione Kala­ma­foni start­ing.

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