For Mamuka Gorgodze, the thought of his last Rugby World Cup match and last outing for Georgia doesn’t make him tear up.
Doesn’t make him emotional at all.
Because he’s already retired once.
Gorgodze and the Georgians bow out of the tournament on Friday in Shizuoka, with a milestone first match against Australia and a chance to leapfrog Fiji and finish third in Pool D.
“I am already used to the feeling (of retirement),” he said on Thursday. “I was emotional two years ago the last time I retired, so for me it is not going to be particularly emotional (this time). I don’t feel any pressure or sadness.”
What he does feel is disappointment. They thought they would beat Fiji, but were hammered 45-10, and thought they would be more competitive against Wales, but were 29-0 down by halftime and lost 43-14.
Gorgodze retired from Georgia duty in May 2017, two months after losing the Rugby Europe Championship decider to Romania in Bucharest, where he suffered ankle and knee injuries. He’d wanted to retire after the 2015 Rugby World Cup but was persuaded to stay on. Lingering injuries bothered him, though, and were undermining his passion for the Lelos.
Coach Milton Haig offered to let him choose his games, but as captain Gorgodze believed he should be available all the time. He retired two years before this Rugby World Cup to let Haig plan without distraction. Gorgodze said he was brokenhearted by the decision and hoped he left fans with a good impression.
Georgia fans were overjoyed in August when he surprisingly agreed to come out of retirement because the team was badly hit by injuries in the warmups. He was fit and happy with his form at French club Toulon and, at 35, was fired up for one more campaign with the Lelos.
He started against Wales and Fiji, scoring a 27th test try driving over from a ruck, and came off the bench against Uruguay. Against Australia, he’s on the openside flank, marking David Pocock.
“We are all excited,” Gorgodze said. “You can’t not be excited at a World Cup but to play Australia is something special.
“I have a huge respect for them and I’m looking forward to testing my ageing muscles against the young Australians.”
The greatest rugby player Georgia has produced wants to take a break from rugby when he moves back to Georgia after 14 years in France.
“Maybe I will start a little business, I really don’t know yet,” he said. “But I don’t want to stay involved in rugby, at least for now.
“If Georgia needs me for something, of course I will be ready to stand next to them and the rugby family in Georgia. But I don’t want to become a coach or anything like that. You can still stay close to rugby without being directly involved, and that is how I feel for now.”
He will leave great memories and take a few, too.
He’s been man of the match four times at Rugby World Cups, including in a losing cause in their first meeting with New Zealand in Cardiff in 2015. But there was nothing like playing before a home crowd in Tbilisi, especially when more than 50,000 lit up their smartphones to show support before a win against Russia in 2017.
“I have played the Top 14 final at Camp Nou in front of a 93,000 crowd,” he said, “but the ambience was nothing compared to a fully packed 54,000-seat Dinamo Arena.”