Romania ready for challenges ahead
February 22 was a hugely significant day for Romanian Rugby. Not only did the Oaks beat Spain 32-6 in the European Nations Cup Division 1A to confirm their place at England 2015, but they also managed to preserve their perfect attendance record at Rugby’s showpiece tournament – an achievement which only a handful of other sides can lay claim to.
Although Romania eventually conceded the much-coveted Europe 1 qualifier spot to Georgia, the Oaks will head into next year’s tournament confident in the knowledge that, with the exception of Ireland, they have already recorded victories over all of their Pool D rivals.
The Oaks have a consistent record on the Rugby World Cup stage, securing wins at five of the seven tournaments they have played in. Their opponents at RWC 2015 will be France, Ireland, Italy and Canada, and given Romania’s current run of form, coach Lynn Howells will see no reason why his men can’t go one further and record two victories in a Rugby World Cup campaign.
With just 18 months to go until Rugby’s showpiece event in England, we put Romania’s confirmed RWC 2015 schedule under the microscope and pick out some of their players to watch out for.
Romania will get their RWC 2015 campaign underway against France on 23 September 2015 at one of the world’s most recognisable sporting venues – the Olympic Stadium in London. With the large numbers of French and Romanian residents in London, this is set to be a passionate and colourful affair. The two sides have met twice already at Rugby World Cups, with Les Bleus recording wins on both occasions. Romania have a handful of players who currently play in the top flight of French Rugby and will be no strangers to their Gallic counterparts.
Ireland at Wembley
The Oaks will swap one iconic stadium for another when they travel across London to Wembley Stadium for their second Pool D match against Ireland. Romania have yet to beat the Irish in a Test match and will look to use the inspiration of playing in a 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium to re-write the history books. On the sole occasion that the sides met on this stage, Ireland ran out 44-14 winners at Lansdowne Road in Dublin at RWC 1999.
Romania will head to the East Midlands for their next Pool D match against Canada at the Leicester City Stadium. Romania met Canada in successive Rugby World Cups, in 1991 and 1995, during the golden era of Canadian Rugby. The Canucks won both matches, with the latter being a comprehensive 34-3 victory in Port Elizabeth. Romania have made huge strides since then and will target this match as a must-win tie.
While Romania’s high point at a Rugby World Cup may have come in 1991 with an exhilarating 17-15 victory over Fiji in Brive, the closest they have come to recording a major scalp on this stage was against Italy at RWC 2007. The Azzurri survived a fierce Romanian onslaught that day in Marseilles to hold on to a 24-18 win. The Oaks will now have the chance to make amends for that agonising defeat when they take on Italy at Sandy Park in Exeter next year.
Players to watch out for
Mihai Lazar – The 27-year-old prop won widespread praise after his determined performances at RWC 2011, which included a try against Scotland. Lazar was a key member of the Castres team that clinched the Top 14 title in 2013.
Paulica Ion – Another member of Romania’s star-studded front row, the 31-year-old Perpignan prop has been capped 65 times by Romania and is a veteran of three Rugby World Cups. Lynn Howells will see Ion’s vast experience and powerful scrummaging as a core asset at RWC 2015.
Florin Vlaicu – Romania’s all-time leading points scorer has been in fine form in qualifying. The 27-year-old utility back, who can play at fly half, centre or on the wing, is a reliable goal-kicker with electric pace. Vlaicu currently plays for the Bucharest Wolves.
Romanian Rugby in numbers
1919 - The year of Romania’s first ever match (a 21-0 defeat to the USA)
100 – The number of points Romania scored in their biggest ever win (against Bulgaria in 1976)
8 – The number of times they have beaten Pool D rivals France in Test Rugby
2 – Number of times Romania have finished bottom of their pool at a Rugby World Cup
3 – The number of points Romania led Scotland by at RWC 2011 with just 12 minutes left on the clock
17 – Romania’s current IRB World Ranking
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