Pool B preview: Scotland v Romania
Scotland will be out to gain some valuable early momentum when they take on minnows Romania in the opening Pool B encounter at Rugby Park in New Zealand's southernmost city of Invercargill on Saturday.
The Scots face a challenging group stage at this World Cup, having been placed in a pool with England and Argentina who are both above them in the world rankings, so a full house of five points with a healthy points difference from this match will be essential if they are to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Romania's best chance of winning a game will be against their Eastern European rivals Georgia, but they will be going all-out to cause an early upset against Scotland who had a disappointing Six Nations campaign this year.
Andy Robinson took over as Scotland coach in June 2009 and his team proceeded to record encouraging victories at Murrayfield over Australia in 2009 and South Africa in 2010.
However, they performed poorly in the Six Nations this year and only narrowly avoided the Wooden Spoon by defeating Italy at home so they will be out to stamp their authority on this match and show that they cannot be taken lightly.
Robinson has an experienced team who will be right at home in the expected cold and wet conditions, and they will be targeting a resounding victory over Romania to boost their confidence levels before they take on the top tier teams in their pool.
"We want to get our campaign off to the best possible start. This competition is about winning and that is what we have to do," Robinson said.
"We have trained really well in the last three months and now it is all about going out and delivering when it matters. I was very pleased by the way we started the games last month and the energy we put into those first 20 minutes and it's important to build on that," he added.
Romania have taken part in every single World Cup to date but are yet to make it into the knock-out phase, and they will know that if they are to qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time then an upset victory over Scotland will be vital.
This will be the fifth consecutive World Cup that 37-year-old Romanian coach Romeo Gontineac has been involved in, albeit his first as coach, and the former on-field warrior will certainly have his charges fired up to strike an early blow for the underdogs.
A concern for Romanian fans will be the lack of experience Gontineac has as a coach, but the presence by his side of former All Blacks prop Steve McDowell, a World Cup winner in 1987, should be a real boost.
Romania's strength has always lain with their forwards and and captain Marius Tincu will want to lead by example as his team looks to take Scotland on up front.
Players to Watch:
For Scotland: Young Richie Gray partners his skipper in the second row, watch for this all-action lock to make an impact up front while in the backline scrumhalf Mike Blair will look to dictate matters and inside centre Sean Lamont will be focused on punching holes in the Romanian defence. Veteran fullback and dead-eye goalkicker Chris Paterson should keep the scoreboard ticking for the Scots.
For Romania: Hooker and captain Marius Tincu will look to lead the way, while most will be looking to his Perpignan teammate Ovidiu Tonita to pose the biggest threat. The 1.95m flank has a reach that makes him a target in the line-outs as well as being an excellent ball-carrier.
Head to Head: Ross Ford wins his 50th cap for Scotland and his duel at hooker with the Romanian skipper will be crucial to deciding which side has forward momentum. How Romanian scrumhalf Lucian Sirbu fares up against Mike Blair should also be decisive.
2007: Scotland won 42-0, Edinburgh
2006: Scotland won 48-6, Edinburgh
2005: Scotland won 39-19, Bucharest
Prediction: Romania will look to keep it tight and put as much early pressure as they can on the Scots, but Andy Robinson's experienced team should be able to weather the early storm before concentrating on scoring the four tries that they need for a full house of log points. We are expecting Scotland to win by at least 20 points.
Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Max Evans, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Kellock (captain), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Ross Rennie, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Rory Lamont.
Romania: 15 Iulian Dumitras, 14 Stefan Ciuntu, 13 Csaba Gal, 12 Tiberius Dimofte, 11 Madalin Lemnaru, 10 Marin Dumbrava, 9 Lucian Sirbu, 8 Daniel Carpo, 7 Ovidiu Tonita, 6 Mihai Macovei, 5 Cristian Petre, 4 Valentin Ursache, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Marius Tincu, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Replacements: 16 Bogdan Zebega Suman, 17 Silviu Florea, 18 Valentin Poparlan, 19 Sandu Burcea, 20 Florin Surugiu, 21 Ionel Cazan, 22 Florin Vlaicu.
Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Kick-off: 13.00 (01.00 GMT)
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Michael de Vries