"Gorgodzilla" returns: Why the Wallabies should fear the biggest dog in Georgian rugby

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

To get a good handle on Mamuka Gorgodze, Drew Mitchell reckons you have to know about his dog.

“He has some type of Mastiff, one of those big dogs,” Mitchell explains.

“And he genuinely used to run it on his treadmill with a weight vest on it. Everything about him is dominant.”

Is it a hunting dog?

“No it was his family dog, he just wanted it to be jacked,” Mitchell says.

"He didn’t want anyone in his household to be lazy. Dog included.”

Introducing Georgian rugby icon Mamuka Gorgodze - or re-introducing, as the case may be.

Gorgodze, a 71-Test legend for Georgia, was re-called out of international retirement and named on Wednesday in the Georgians’ World Cup squad for Japan.

Gorgodze, 35, will attend his fourth Rugby World Cup after answering the call of coach Milton Haig. 

The backrower retired from Test rugby in 2017 but a spate of injuries in the Georgia squad saw Gorgodze agree to return for one last campaign in Japan.

That’s news that may prompt the Wallabies management to order extra bags of ice for their pool D clash with Georgia in Shizuoka on October 11.

The ‘Lelos' are notorious for being hugely physical, and as the world’s biggest exporter of props, Georgia’s scrum is fearsome.

In leading Georgia at previous World Cups, Gorgodze was the most fearsome of all and he became a cult figure in both the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, where he picked up the nickname “Gorgodzilla”.

After almost beating Ireland and Scotland in 2007 and 2011 respectively, Georgia won two games in 2015; including a famous win over Tonga.

They even pushed New Zealand hard, trailing only 22-10 at halftime in a 43-10 defeat. Gorgodze was named man-of-the-match, as he was when Georgia played England in 2011. 

Mitchell was playing for the Wallabies in the 2015 tournament but he wasn’t surprised to see Gorgodze and Georgia causing all sorts of damage.

The ex-Wallaby was club teammates with Gorgodze at Toulon from 2014-2017.

"The Georgians just don’t take anything. If they don’t agree with something, they won’t accept it,” Mitchell said.

"We had the two enforcers in world rugby in the same team with “Muks” and Bakkies Botha, so we weren’t lacking for a bit of muscle.

"Everything about him as an enforcer and a hard man is legit. But again, he’s like one of those guys with a hard exterior but if you are in, you’re in. He is as loyal as they come and if you’re one his people, he’ll do anything for you. 

“He was a genuine leader. All the other Georgian boys in our team were like 'yes Mamuka, no Mamuka, whatever you say Mamuka’. 

"They have that much respect for him and it was earned. From everyone’s point of view. He was a real dominant figure.”

He had a big dog but Mitchell remembers Gorgodze being a genuine ‘big dog’ himself. And not in an affected way.

"Everything about him is just class, you know? He wears the high-end loafers, he’s got the really nice style, he’s big on his watches. It’s not a put-on either, that’s just him,” Mitchell said.


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"He is a dominant guy who will make the big shot and at the same time he lives his life as a big dog. 

"It’s not an effort, it’s just how he is. He would invite us up to his house for a Cognac and a cigar. There weren’t many gatherings in Toulon that involved sitting around in mahogany leather chairs drinking Cognac, I can tell you.”

Even before Gorgodze’s comeback, the Wallabies were no doubt already bracing for a very tough encounter in pool D with Georgia, who are ranked 12th in the world - just below Argentina.

"They have a bit of a chip,” Mitchell says.

"'Muks' has been campaigning hard now for a long time that they should be in the Six Nations instead of (13th-ranked) Italy.

"So they will have a chip going into this World Cup where they will just want to prove themselves. Their scrum is a huge asset.

"There are 30 Fijian wingers playing in French rugby and there are 30 Georgian props. You can’t have a team of props but that indicates where their strength is at, you know?”

The Wallabies will need to be up for the fight, says Mitchell. And he means it literally.

"They have some heavy hitters and they will just look to disrupt,” Mitchell says. 

"Do you remember when Georgia scrummed against England in camp one time? It blew up into a fight after three scrums. That’s what they’re like. 

"If you look at a Georgian wrong or if there’s any little thing, like a little shove after being tackled on the sideline, they’ll get up and want to go to war.

"They’re a hard breed. And ‘Muks' is the boss."