Profile: Romania seek knockout glory
Tue, 23 Aug 2011 00:00
Romania have played in every World Cup to date but unfortunately for the Oaks, they have yet to claw their way out of the group stages.
There was a golden period in the 1980s when they beat France, Scotland and Wales, drew with Ireland and held the All Blacks to a 14-6 defeat during which the Romanians had two tries disallowed. But that is now in the dim and distant past.
These days, Romania, rather than pressing for a place among the elite of European rugby are fighting to keep in touch with the likes of Georgia and Russia.
Romania were the 20th and final team to qualify for the tourament after a 39-12 win over Uruguay in Bucharest, the two sides having drawn the first leg of their play-off in Montevideo.
Their reward was to be drawn in Pool B alongside England, Scotland, Argentina and their current sparring partners Georgia.
"The objective is to play some good matches against the strong teams like England, Scotland and Argentina - and win our last match against Georgia," flank Ovidiu Tonita told AFP.
"They are our big rivals at the moment and we really want to make that one count."
Their first game against Scotland could also offer the Romanians a chance to score an upset. The Scots didn't have a great Six Nations and even though they beat the Romanians 42-0 four years ago, Tonita puts that result down as an aberration.
"I think that was a bit of an accident. We had just narrowly lost our opening game to Italy (24-18) and we were extremely disappointed because we should have won.
"I think our psychology wasn't so good going into the game against Scotland we weren't really there. We have made some progress since then and Scotland were a bit 'comme-ci, comme-ca' in the Six Nations so I think this might be a bit more balanced," he said.
Romania's strength has always lain with their forwards. Their Perpignan pair of Tonita and hooker Marius Tincu will be crucial as will veteran lock and captain Sorin Socol.
Behind the scrum, Tonita points to the pace on the wings of Catalin Fercu and Madalin Lemnaru and the emergence of Ionel Cazan in the centre as evidence of an increased attacking potential.
But the depth is not there for the Romanians to think seriously about clambering to the next level and emerging from the group, a fact not helped by the relatively low quality of the club game at home.
"It has progressed a little bit over the last few years," says Tonita. "Not so long ago there were just two decent teams, now there are four or five. But the rest are still at a fairly low level."
This marks a fifth successive World Cup for Gontineac, albeit his first as coach. Captain in the last two editions, the 37-year-old certainly knows how to handle the tournament. "He comes with plenty of experience, he has brought on the young players and I can see real progress," says Tonita. Whether he has the coaching experience to plot the downfall of Georgia and Scotland remains to be seen - although the presence by his side of former All Black prop Steve McDowell, a World Cup winner in 1987, should be a real boost.
Ovidiu Tonita - loose forward
The Perpignan back rower is a hard-working forward, who at 1.95m has a reach that makes him a target in the line-outs as well. An excellent ripper of the ball and carrier but also not afraid to walk the line of legality, something that has landed him in hot water in the past. If Romania are to make any progress, he will have to keep himself on the right side of the referees.
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