'At first it was unusual for players but now it’s normal'

Georgia medic Nutsa Shamatava discusses her experiences as the only female team doctor at Rugby World Cup 2019.

KUMAGAYA, 29 Sep - Should a Georgia player require medical treatment during their Pool D encounter with Uruguay in Kumagaya City on Sunday then they will be tended to by the only female doctor at Japan 2019.

Nutsa Shamatava has worked with the Lelos for the past 12 months on the road to Rugby World Cup 2019, having started her relationship with the Georgian Rugby Union in 2015 when she became a clinical director at a medical practice that specialised in rugby rehabilitation.

In the intervening four years Shamatava has completed all the requisite World Rugby medical courses and of her approach says that her “whole job is done for the players’ welfare”.

Match-day on Sunday will begin with a medical check of all 23 members of the squad, before helping with any strapping that may be needed.

Each player’s Head Injury Assessment baseline and A Sample papers must also be ratified before the Lelos take to the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium pitch.

“Of course, when you are a team doctor you must be very friendly with players as they must trust you,” Shamatava said. “This is the main thing for the relationship between a doctor and players.

“With the staff I have a very good relationship, we all are working together helping each other, etc and our whole job is done is for the players’ welfare.”

If the players had any reservations about their medical needs being taken care of by a woman, they have quickly dissipated according to Shamatava.

Unusual becomes normal

Her transition from clinical director to team doctor was accelerated in 2017 when she worked for the Junior Lelos as Georgia hosted the World Rugby U20 Championship.

The hosts’ squad for that tournament contained six players that have been selected for Rugby World Cup 2019, five of whom – Tedo Abzhandadze, Gela Aprasidze, Guram Gogichashvili, Giorgi Kveseladze and Beka Saginadze – were included in the 23-man squad to play Uruguay.

It is no surprise, therefore, that such familiarity has helped Shamatava settle into the senior environment and allows her to perform her job to the best of her ability.

“I can’t say that it was challenging but for my country it was unusual to have a woman doctor,” she said.

“So, it’s the first time in Georgia that the rugby team has a female doctor. For the first time it was unusual for players but now it’s normal for them.

“Not only in my country, but in the whole rugby world it is not popular for women to work in [this field]. I am the only woman working at RWC as a team doctor.”

Doing so in a vast country such as Japan, almost 8,000 kilometres from home, would have been daunting for some. But Shamatava has embraced her first Rugby World Cup.

My proudest moment

“Japan is a very interesting country for me, with big culture and history,” she said.

“It’s interesting to see how their systems are working, and as I see it’s working perfectly.

“They are very friendly and they host us as their family members.”

Such hospitality from the hosts, allied to the fact that Shamatava has the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in Georgian rugby history has helped to make hers an unforgettable experience.

“My proudest [career] moment is already the fact that I am working with the Georgian national rugby team,” she explained.

“There are many famous players in the team, so I am proud to work with them and be their doctor.

“I am proud that I had an opportunity to be part of Rugby World Cup 2019.”

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