Romania head into the 2015 Rugby World cup as one of the 12 teams that have participated in every World Cup so far. Nicknamed The Oaks, they play in what is arguably a tough group for them (Group D), with France, Ireland, Canada and Italy joining them. The Romanians will be looking to achieve a 6th win in the competition, their last coming against Portugal in 2007, but they have never beaten any of the teams in their group at a World Cup and will be looking for a first scalp from these teams.
With final preparations underway, which started immediately after winning the 2015 Rugby Nations cup; high-altitude training in the mountains of Cheile Gradistei and 3 gym sessions every day hope to improve the team’s fitness for the tournament. The training culminated in a warm-up match against Tonga last Saturday in Bucharest.
The final warm-up match didn’t go to plan with Romania going down 16-21. Incidentally, the profits of the Tonga match are being donated to ex-Tonga and CSM Baia Mare player Sione Vaiomounga who is suffering from kidney failure.
Currently 17th in the World Rugby Rankings and qualifying for the tournament as Europe’s 3rd qualifier,only Canada in Group D are ranked lower (18th). Canada’s home win against Georgia on September 2nd wasn’t enough to overtake their group D rivals and the Romanian loss against Tonga won’t close the gap on the USA, so we can expect the rankings to remain the same at the start of the tournament.
Romania’s Welsh-born coach Lynn Howells has called upon players who have qualified for Romania under the 36 month residency ruling, with players from New Zealand (Wiringi), Tonga (Kinikilau), South Africa (van Heerdenand) and Georgia (Turashvili) making the 31-strong squad.
Mirela Basescu from the Romanian Rugby Federation sees the introduction of these foreign-born players as an advantage “They have another way of thinking of the game, they are quick and can play the ball from all the areas of the field and they are a good example for the Romanian players”.
Home-grown Number 8 Ovidiu Tonita is due to break Romanian records and play in his fourth Rugby World Cup having earned 76 caps for the Oaks and Florin Vliacu hopes to extend his lead as Romania’s all-time points scorer.
Howells’ work with the team has helped improve areas such as defence, fitness, rucks and mauls and the team have adopted a way of play that suits the Romanians. The players are confident coming into the tournament with many experiencing their 1st Rugby World Cup. Basescu states “We’ve set ourselves the target of two wins in the tournament: Canada and Italy, but we also want to have positive performances against Ireland and Italy”.
Romania beating Canada is achievable and the Oaks can also run Italy close, if not win. Beating a Six Nations team would prove to many that the gap between the Six Nations and the so-called “Six Nations B” isn’t that great.
Ireland and France however, will be a very different task. Romania won’t get out of Group D, but they should put in performances that will win over many neutrals in the competition. Their 1st game of the tournament will be against France in the Olympic Stadium in London, an experience many of the players will remember fondly.
Romania RWC 2015 squad:
Forwards: Paulica Ion, Mihaita Lazar, Andrei Ursache, Alexandru Tarus, HoratiuPungea, Andrei Radoi, Otar Turashvili, Eugen Capatana, Valentin Popirlan,Johannes van Heerden, Marius Antonescu, Valentin Ursache, Mihai Macovei, ViorelLucaci, Stelian Burcea, Ovidiu Tonita, Daniel Carpo.
Backs: Florin Surugiu, Valentin Calafeteanu, Tudorel Bratu, Danut Dumbrava,Michael Wiringi, Paula Kinikilau, Florin Vlaicu, Csaba Gal, Adrian Apostol,Ionut Botezatu, Florin Ionita, Madalin Lemnaru, Catalin Fercu, Sabin Stratila.
(Image copyright of the Romania Rugby Federation).