Vakhtang Abdaladze has had to fight the odds the whole way through his rugby career; so when a +995 number popped up on his phone he had no hesitation in answering the call. Georgia wanted him to play international rugby and he said yes immediately.

Yes, it will have repercussions to his Leinster career down the line as he lost his Irish eligibility when he came off the bench against Uruguay last November, but the pay-off for the boy who grew up in Blanchardstown was worth it.

His father Nikoloz is a former Georgian international No 8 who moved with his family to the Dublin suburb during the early 2000s when Vakh was just five years old.

The way the younger Abdaladze tells it, his father’s training was a big part in his sporting progress, but he’s not one to show much emotion in front of his boys. When Vakhtang stood in line in Tbilisi to sing the anthem, he was struggling to hold back the tears.

“Letting my parents know (about the call-up) … my Dad is cool, calm and collected and my Mum always tells me how he actually reacts,” he says with a smile.

“With the first game, they couldn’t make it to Georgia so when they were watching on TV Mum said he was tearing up during the anthem.

​“He wouldn’t tell me that, we have a different kind of relationship, but Mum would always tell me. They came over to Wales (a week later when the Lelos won in Cardiff) and almost teared up again, because he was talking to coaches and people involved who were saying positive things about me and Mum said he had to take a minute.

“I was delighted. Whatever about the rugby, that ticked the box.”

Within the confines of their house across the road from what is now the IRFU’s High Performance Centre at Abbotstown, Guguli and Nikoloz Abdaladze spoke Georgian with their sons Vakhtang and Luca; while at weekends they’d meet with other families from their homeland and keep the strong connection alive.

Out in the world, the two boys plunged head-first into Irish life.

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Vakh attended St Mochta’s primary school and played in Croke Park against Hugo Keenan’s St Mary’s of Booterstown in the Cumann na mBunscol finals. Soccer was his first love and he played midfield and centre-half for St Mochta’s, before a team-mate suggested they go to Coolmine RFC and try out rugby.

At first he lined out at centre and played his first Leinster Youths trial at No 12 outside a young out-half from Skerries called Ciarán Frawley.

As he grew, the number on his back shrank and by the time he was lining out for Ireland against Georgia in the 2016 U-20s Six Nations, he was in the front-row.

The suggestion first came from the Leinster Academy scouts, yet he was cut from the province at one stage before working his way back in through his performances for Clontarf in the All-Ireland League.

He was on the cusp of a breakthrough during the 2019 World Cup when his back gave out, an injury that troubled him for a couple of years. He battled back and made his European debut against Bath last season, announcing his arrival with a thunderous tackle that shook The Rec.

Once more injury struck and a niggly neck issue interrupted his momentum. So, he came into this season with a refreshed mindset.

“In pre-season, if you’d said to me I’d get a cap in November I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says.

“I said I’d play my rugby, take it week on week and the priority is to play as much for Leinster as possible.

“I got a couple of games at the start of the season and then before the Zebre game I got a call asking if I’d any interest and I was like: ‘Yeah’.

“I was wondering if they had the right number. It was an honour to get the call, a privilege to play for them because I hadn’t played much rugby.

“From the career path I’d had, to get a call like that was surreal.”

​Once he got into camp, he felt at home as players inquired about the Leinster way and raised an eyebrow when the Dubliner responded in a strong regional accent from his original hometown in Kutaisi in the west of Georgia.

He did enough in training to earn a spot on the bench against Uruguay. “I had to get about 30 tickets because all my family were coming up, it was stressful at the start! Once I got the tickets sorted, the rugby took over,” he recalls. “During the anthem I was more focused on not messing it up, someone beside me did and when that happened I was so relieved. I could relax.

“Then, being in the stadium, singing the anthem, all that emotion … I’d to bite the tongue during it, but once I went on I enjoyed it, get involved and staying laser-focused.”

He visits Georgia every summer, but a combination of injury and lockdown propelled Abdaladze to deepen the connection further and he started a wine-importation business with his best friend John Clarke called ‘Taste of Georgia’.

“Georgia was the first country to produce wine, the quality is amazing and it’s a good market to get into. I don’t try to spoof anyone, I just want to promote Georgia as a nation through the wine and hopefully people like the wine. That’s our story.

“We’ve got amazing feedback on it, it’s kept me busy – especially now I’m playing again. You come home from training and there’s loads of emails to deal with.”

While the business is ticking along, Abdaladze’s main goal is to make the World Cup in September and October, and he came off the bench last weekend during their 75-12 victory over Germany in the Rugby Europe tournament.

His Leinster contract runs until 2024 and he knows that he’s likely to have to move on at that point, but now that he’s a Georgia international he wants to make the grade in France.

“The World Cup is the goal. When the call came, you look at your peers. I’m 26, going to be 27 in a couple of weeks. How many rugby games realistically can my body get me through? When you’ve injuries you ask that question.

“So that’s the dream. Play a World Cup with my home nation.

“Everyone at Leinster has been supportive, they know the details. I’m not Irish-qualified and that moved my trajectory elsewhere, but for how it’s going now and the way it is at the minute, I’m happy out.

“If you gave me the decision again, 10 times out of 10 I’d make the same one. How it affected my father, I’d make it 11 out of 10. The career it’s been, what can I do that can make myself and my family happy … how I can benefit from it is secondary to that.

“There’s not much that can beat that.”

The French tanks aiming to scuttle the Irish scrum in crucial battle at the Aviva

Finlay Bealham ‘won’t get carried away’ after earning the right to be top dog

The Monday Verdict: Our jury sums up the action from the opening weekend of the Six Nations

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