Georgia have always been known for their prowess in the forward pack but in recent years, their backline has come alive.
Flying full-back Davit Niniashvili has spearheaded that revolution, inspiring his side to some historic victories with his skill and pace.
At 21 years old, Niniashvili looks set to shine on the international stage for years to come.
So, ahead of the Summer Nations Series, and with the 2023 Rugby World Cup fast approaching, let’s take a closer look at this prodigious young player.
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) June 2, 2022
Niniashvili first came to the world’s attention during the 2019 European Under-18 Rugby Union Championship in Kaliningrad.
Georgia won the competition after beating Spain 20-10 in the final, and their young full-back played a crucial role.
He started that match and was a class above the rest as Georgia secured their second title in a row.
He missed out on the chance to star at the World Rugby U20 Championship due to Covid-19, but the world had already stood up and taken notice of the exciting young prospect.
An international debut at 18
Niniashvili made his senior international Test debut at just 18 years old after coming off the bench in Georgia’s 23-10 defeat against Ireland during the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.
A player that age could easily crumble under the immense pressure of competing against one of the world’s best sides, but the full-back took it in his stride.
He immediately made an impact on the pitch, winning a turnover penalty inside his own 22 to stop Ireland’s attack in its tracks.
He would also feature in the 7th/8th place play-off as Georgia pushed Fiji to the limit before ultimately falling to a 38-24 defeat.
Shining in France
After scoring four tries in the Rugby Europe Championship, including a sensation hat-trick against the Netherlands, the full-back signed for Lyon as an ‘espoir’ ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Initially expected to be a player for the future, Niniashvili fought his way into the senior side in his first season in the Top 14.
After featuring in seven of Lyon’s first ten games of the 2021/22 campaign, he helped Georgia to a draw against Fiji, but that was just the start of a remarkable season for the youngster.
Lyon began to deploy the back on the wing, and soon he was making a difference on one of club rugby’s grandest stages.
The 2022 EPCR Challenge Cup final
The versatile young star scored twice as Lyon beat Glasgow Warriors to reach the semi-final of the 2022 EPCR Challenge Cup.
He also played 80 minutes in the semi as the French side beat Wasps 20-18 to seal their place in the final.
And the full-back did not stop there.
He capped a breakout season with an outstanding display as the tournament reached it, helping his side beat a star-studded Toulon team.
His standout moment in the match came when he knocked giant Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth into next week.
That win against Wales
After a stunning start to the 2022/23 campaign with Lyon, Niniashvili returned to international action.
Last November got off to a mixed start for Levan Maisashvili’s side as they beat Uruguay but lost to Fiji.
However, that was all about to change.
Georgia’s 13-12 triumph over Wales will go down as one of the great Autumn Nations Series results, and Niniashvili was central to the success.
He played the full 80 minutes and contributed in attack and defence as Maisashvili’s squad etched their name into rugby folklore with one of the biggest upsets since Japan’s iconic victory over South Africa in 2015.
It was their first-ever win over Wales, and the young star has gone from strength to strength ever since for club and country.