Georgia captain Merab Sharikadze believes it was important for the Lelos to back up their historic victory against Wales with another Rugby Europe Championship title.

Sharikadze and Georgia shocked the Principality Stadium last November, coming from 12-3 behind to win 13-12, thanks to a late Luka Matkava penalty.

According to Sharikadze, beating Wales increased the belief the squad had in its abilities.

“We are quite confident now,” he told World Rugby. “We were like this before as well but now when you see and can touch the result and get this experience, you become more confident.”

However, as the Georgia captain concedes, it was crucial for the team’s development that they built on the Wales performance when they returned to Rugby Europe Championship action last month.

The Lelos did exactly that, beating Germany, the Netherlands and Spain in the pool stage of the revamped tournament to set up a semi-final against Romania.

Sharikadze, who felt in “very good shape” during the Rugby Europe Championship, scored a try in the Pool A defeat of Spain and repeated the trick against the Oaks to help the Lelos to a 31-7 win.

The grand final against Portugal in Badajoz was in the balance at half-time, with Georgia holding a slender 12-11 lead.

Georgia ran in four tries after the break, however, to seal a 38-11 win and secure the team’s sixth successive Rugby Europe Championship.

“It was very important for us and our supporters,” Sharikadze said. “Everybody wanted to see what we would do after Wales game.

“I’m sure no one would be happy to see us stepping backwards after the great win, so I think we prove that nothing came to us just by being lucky.”

“The World Cup is a different thing”

Victory continued the dominance of Georgian teams in continental competition. Not only have the Lelos now lifted 12 Rugby Europe Championship titles in 13 years – and are unbeaten in 29 tournament matches – but Tbilisi club the Black Lion have won both editions of the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

Sharikadze was one of six Black Lion players who started for the national team in Badajoz last Sunday and he says the club has been integral to the Lelos’ recent form.

“Black Lion has a huge effect on national team success,” he said. “Not only wins but the quality of rugby of the national team is very much related to Black Lion.”

Sharikadze and his Georgia team-mates will now turn their focus towards preparation for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France, where they will play both Wales and Portugal, as well as Australia and Fiji, in Pool C.

The Georgia captain warned against reading too much into Sunday’s win against Portugal ahead of the teams’ meeting in Toulouse on 23 September, though.

“It can possibly have some impact,” he said. “But the World Cup is a different thing, we cannot really rely on this last result.”

RWC 2023 will be Sharikadze’s third showpiece tournament and he will hope to lead Georgia out of the pool phase and into the quarter-finals for the first time.

“What I’ve learnt from the last two World Cups, you don’t really have space for mistakes there,” he said. “You make one mistake as a team and an opportunity is gone.

“You need to use everything you’ve got in the World Cup.”

On the prospect of reaching the quarter-finals in France, Sharikadze added: “That probably could change a lot of things in our country, and could make a lot of nice things happen.”