Georgian No 8 Dimitri Basilaia confirmed as new Edinburgh recruit

HEINEKEN Cup semi-finalists Edinburgh have confirmed the signing of Georgian World Cup star Dimitri Basilaia, as revealed in The Scotsman last month.

The 6ft 4in, 17-stone No 8 currently plays for Valence d’Agen in the league just below the French professional set-up.

Edinburgh head coach Michael Bradley said yesterday he was delighted to add another physical ball-carrier to a set of back rowers which already contains Fijian Netani Talei and Scotland stars David Denton and Ross Rennie.

Talei, a standout in Edinburgh’s brilliant run to the last four of this year’s Heineken Cup still has a year left on his contract at Murrayfield, giving Bradley terrific strength in depth at the back of the scrum. Bradley said: “I believe that Dimitri [Basilaia] will prove to be a very significant signing for Edinburgh Rugby.

“He’s a fantastic fit for this club and will contribute a huge amount to an increasingly aggressive and combative forward unit, while his ball handling skills are such that we can maintain and strengthen our fast-paced, offloading game. Dima has a tremendous work ethic and attitude to the sport. He’s very excited about joining the club and I know he’ll give everything.”

The 23-times capped 26-year-old has been an international ever-present since 2008 and played a significant role in the much-praised physicality which underpinned Georgia’s 2011 World Cup campaign.

Basilaia started all three of their pool matches, a 25-9 win over Romania, 15-6 loss to Scotland and 41-10 defeat against England, in which he scored his second international try with a trademark surge from the base of the scrum.

Basilaia said: “It’s a great honour and opportunity for me to join such a high profile club and I’m really looking forward to being part of a very exciting future and playing alongside some very talented players.

“The arrival of a new player always heightens supporters’ enthusiasm and anticipation and I will not spare any efforts to meet those expectations from the moment I arrive in the capital.

“I’m in great shape, both physically and spiritually, and can’t wait to pull on the black and red shirt of Edinburgh Rugby.”

Bradley spotted the talents of the destructive ball carrier when he served as a technical coach alongside former Scotland and current Georgia head coach Richie Dixon in the build-up to the last World Cup and, subject to a working visa, he will join the club at the start of the next season.

Despite a disappointing RaboDirect PRO12 campaign, which sees Edinburgh in second-bottom place, the club has enjoyed a historic run to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, with a 19-14 win over four-times champions Toulouse on Saturday in front of a record crowd of 37,881 at Murrayfield the latest in a series of outstanding results.

They will play Celtic League rivals Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in three weeks’ time for a place in European rugby’s showpiece final.

And the signing of Basilaia seem to show that along with other signings already announced, the SRU are keen to build on Edinburgh’s success – and that of Glasgow who are battling for a PRO12 semi-final spot.

South African prop WP Nel has already agreed to join the Murrayfield side from Free State Cheetahs and Scottish-qualified utility back Greig Tonks is due to arrive from Northampton Saints.