Georgia Rugby pleads for a spot in expansion plans

As World Rugby officials prepare to meet in Dublin this week to lay out plans for the proposed global competition, the game's minnows are staking their claims for involvement.

Among them, Georgia.

With a billionaire backer and a Kiwi coach, European rugby's potential sleeping giants want to make their mark.

The powerhouse Georgian pack recently helped England prepare for their Six Nations opener against Ireland, but they hope that's not the closest they get to competing in European rugby's premier international competition.

Georgia want to play against the game's heavyweights and winning the 'most improved' award is no longer an option, according to coach Milton Haig.

"Without an opportunity to play at a higher level regularly, we can't really see ourselves progressing that quickly." 

Unfortunately, the sport's governing body doesn't appear to be in a hurry to make that happen.

Thiw week, Georgia Rugby's president Gocha Svanizde slammed his country's absence from World Rugby's new toy.

Under Haig's leadership, Georgia has dominated the second-tier European competition, winning six of the past seven tournaments, and they're on track for another in 2019.

Yet, despite Italy being on a 21-match Six Nations losing streak, the chance of a straight swap is unlikely - much to the disappointment of the rugby-mad Georgian public.

"For the national team, the next step is really hard, because I know the Six Nations is not an option for now for Georgian rugby, because of many things," according to Georgian rugby journalist Luka Chochua.

The main stumbling block? Money.

The Six Nations is very lucrative and no team has any intention of stepping aside, as the second-tier competition makes next to nothing.

But Haig has a solution.

"Expansion has an obvious pathway, because nobody's threatened by promotion or relegation," Haig said. "When you talk about relegation, then everyone gets nervous."

While expansion is Georgia's answer to a place in the Six Nations, World Rugby will look to sell promotion-relegation to the game's powerbrokers this week.

"We're now at a stage where we need more of those tier-one games to improve our rugby, and it's very difficult for us to try and do that," said Haig.

So as the game's decision-makers look to find an international schedule that works, Georgia's message remains simple.

"We just want the opportunity," said Haig. "We don't care what format it takes, we'd love the opportunity to be part of it."