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‘Terenure Took Me In And Helped Me A Lot’ – Portugal ‘A’ Prop Turabelidze

‘Terenure Took Me In And Helped Me A Lot’ – Portugal ‘A’ Prop Turabelidze

Portugal 'A' prop Giorgi Turabelidze has fond memories of playing with Terenure College in the Energia All-Ireland League ©Luis Cabelo Photography

Giorgi Turabelidze is relishing the opportunity to make his mark for Portugal ‘A’ when they host the Ireland Club XV atthe Estádio Universitário de Lisboa on Friday night (kick-off 7pm – live on www.rugbytv.pt).

The 27-year-old prop is under no illusions as to how competitive this historic contest will be. He has first-hand experience of the Energia All-Ireland-League, having spent the 2017/18 season with current Division 1A champions Terenure College.

Born in Georgia, Turabelidze and his family moved to Portugal when he was four years of age. He started playing rugby at 16, before deciding to follow in the footsteps of his famous rugby-playing cousin, Vakh Abdaladze, the then Leinster Academy prop, by moving to Ireland a few years later.

He first togged out for Coolmine RFC, before being persuaded by Terenure’s Mark Hamilton, the current Ireland Club XV team manager, to make the move to Lakelands Park for the following season.

He made his All-Ireland League debut away to Dublin University, where Terenure held the students scoreless in an impressive 24-0 victory. It is a great memory that he has not forgotten.

“My first game against Trinity was a memorable moment. It was my first experience of playing at that level. It was amazing to get that chance,” he told IrishRugby.ie.

“Mark Hamilton was the person who brought me to Terenure, he really looked after me. I’m delighted that he is the team manager for the Irish Clubs team.

“Being from Portugal, I was amazed at how the Terenure community welcomed me during my time there. It was great to see how many of the supporters went to the games each week. They all took me in and helped me a lot.”

The Energia All-Ireland League’s top flight showcases the best amateur rugby talent in Ireland. Many young professional and Academy players get their first taste of senior rugby at club level. They are often released by their provincial teams to get game-time with their clubs.

For others who maybe narrowly missed out on provincial places or decided to focus on other career goals, the AIL gives them a platform to play on a competitive stage whilst still enjoying the social aspect of the game and all that club rugby has to offer.

Turabelidze explained how impressed he was with the standard of rugby in the AIL. He mentioned the current Terenure and Ireland Club XV captain, Harrison Brewer, as a player that really stood out to him during his time in the league.

I think Harrison came back the year I started with Terenure. He’s a great player and a great guy as well. I learned a lot from him.

“Players like him show you what it takes to become a good player, the dedication you must put in, not just on the playing field but what you must do off it as well.

“The time you should spend in the gym, working on finer details of your technique, and even little things around your mindset. If you don’t focus on all of those things, you won’t develop fully as a player.”

Portuguese rugby has been on a crest of a wave ever since their historic 24-23 victory over Fiji at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. It was the fairytale result of the tournament in France.

Making their first World Cup appearance since 2007, Os Lobos’ played an exciting brand of rugby that captured the imagination of those watching on. Their performances earned them their highest ever world ranking of 13th.

Turabelidze, who now plays for Agronomia Rugby Club in Lisbon, agreed that the 2023 World Cup has had a great impact for the growth of the sport in the country.

With Portugal gearing up to play Georgia in the Rugby Europe Championship final on St. Patrick’s Day, he noted: “Everyone involved with the Portuguese national team did a great job at the World Cup. It was the first time they’ve been there since 2007, so to perform like they did was brilliant.

“Rugby wouldn’t be on the TV that much in Portugal, like it would be in Ireland or other countries where rugby is big. During the World Cup it was great because loads of young kids and new people started to watch the sport here.

“There’s a lot of new kids starting rugby now, it’s great for the development. For the national team it was amazing. Everybody was talking about how they were doing. It can only help things improve.”

The strongly-built tighthead is targeting his own goal of one day playing Test rugby for Portugal. He hopes to emulate the achievement of older cousin Vakh, who made his international debut for Georgia against Uruguay in November 2022.

Abdaladze represented Ireland at Under-20 level, helping them to reach the 2016 World Rugby U-20 Championship final, and went on to make 30 appearances for Leinster. He moved to Brive to play in France’s Pro D2 last summer.

Turabelidze admitted that he has taken great inspiration from his cousin’s success. He is fully focused on staking his claim for a Portugal cap, saying: “Of course I’ve always looked up to Vakh, he has worked so hard to get where he is right now.

“Hopefully someday I’ll become as good as him. I grew up in Portugal, I’d love to represent the county.”

He made his debut for the Portugal ‘A’ side against England ‘A’, coming off the bench during the game in Leicester 10 days ago. He is eager to make his mark against Ireland’s best club players on Friday night.

“It would be amazing to be able to play and put in a good performance against the Irish Clubs on Friday. It’s a country filled with quality players.

“I’d love to put in a performance to show that I’m working hard in my push to get a chance for the senior team,” he added.