A win-win situation for Moldova
Vasile Revenco is realistic when it comes to the prospect of Moldova qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015, but the fact they are still in the mix for a place in the Repechage is helping to raise the profile of the sport in the country.
Moldova currently sit second in Division 1B of the European Nations Cup 2014, five points behind Germany after both sides enjoyed victories over Poland (21-12) and the Czech Republic (76-12) respectively last weekend.
The national team host Ukraine in their penultimate match in the competition that spans two years, knowing that only a bonus point win will suffice in their bid to beat Germany to top spot which will earn them a play-off with the Netherlands with Russia awaiting the winner to determine Europe's representatives in the Repechage.
“Matches like these help us raise the profile of the game in the country,” explained Revenco, President of the Federaţia de Rugby din Moldova, after his country’s sixth successive win in the European Nations Cup.
“In Eastern Europe the terms World Cup or World Championship have a very strong symbolic connotation, so when we say we are competing in the qualifying stage of the Rugby World Cup, this is having a big impact, in rugby circles and more importantly in the country at a whole.
“We have been given a great deal of publicity as a result of the recent run of success and rugby’s status is definitely on the way up. A camera crew from the national Moldova Television has followed us here to Poland and a special programme will be shown next week, in the build up to the Ukraine match.
“Rugby is big news, and as long as we keep doing well it will remain so.
Growing the game
“It would be great if we qualify, but we are realistic and know our limitations. In many ways, for what we are trying to achieve back home, the passage is more important than the destination.
“We are in contention and that keeps us in the news. This also has a direct impact at government and administration levels. We have been given land to build our own national stadium and I showed the IRB the plans last November in Dublin.
“The most important thing is that the numbers of children who want to play the game has gone up a lot. This school programme was launched in the early 1990s by my predecessor Boris Jacob, who has done wonders to establish the game in schools.
“I was in the team that played Lithuania in our first ever international in 1993 and went on playing for 10 years, after which I coached the team for a while.
“Most of the boys playing now for Moldova started playing rugby when Mr Jacob introduced rugby into schools and used us, the players of the national team, as trainers and coaches.
“Now we must preserve and take matters further. We must expand the game in the country and one of the best news was that quite recently the Moldovan Military Academy has asked the Federation to help them set up a rugby club, which is a very significant development.”
This is a sentiment echoed by prop Vadim Cobilas, who was encouraged by his friend and current Moldova captain Veaceslav Titica, to give rugby a try when he was 19 and going nowhere with his Greco-Roman wrestling.
Familiarity the key to success
He hasn’t looked back and now has his brother Maxim playing alongside him in the front row.
“We are the same small group of players who put Moldova on the rugby map and when Maxim joined us things got even better,” explained Cobilas, who has more than 20 Test caps to his name.
“Having been together for such a long time we are now playing quote well together having gelled over the years, which is a significant factor in our current success story.
“This is the main reason for our very good run of success in the European Nations Cup when suddenly we found ourselves in the headlines, playing in the Rugby World Cup qualifying rounds.
“It is a shame that we did not score the fourth try against Poland which would have secured us a bonus point, but to be honest this was a very good win against a very strong and well-respected team.
“What is important now is to use these opportunities to strengthen the game in Moldova, to enable the next generation to come to the fore. This is why high-profile games like the one we played at the weekend in the qualifying rounds for RWC 2015 are so important to us.”
If Moldova can secure a bonus-point victory over Ukraine in Chisinau on Saturday then the race to secure the Division 1B title will go down to the final day on 26 April when the Moldovans are away to the Czech Republic and Germany travel to Sweden.