Key Clash Preview: Scotland v Romania

Date: 10th September 2011
Time: 02:00 BST/ 13:00 NZST
Venue: Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill

The squad have set themselves the task of winning the pool group, and they have a difficult job ahead of them: two games in four days. Their stopover training camp in Australia has seen them working hard on their scrum, after the Italians highlighted its weaknesses, and they were the last team to arrive in New Zealand.

There is a good blend of experience and new blood in this squad; Ruaridh Jackson is favoured over Dan Parks at fly-half, and the combination of Jo Ansbro and Sean Lamont in the centres see Graeme Morrison and Nick De Luca rested, most likely ahead of the game against Georgia.

Having lost one of their wingers, Catalin Fercu, due to a phobia of flying, the Romanian team is heaving a sigh of relief that several key players have returned to match fitness and will be taking part in this game: prop Mihaita Lazar, flanker Ovidiu Tonita, and Ionel Cazan have shaken off injuries to shin, head and foot respectively.

Coach Romeo Gontineac is fielding an experienced team, by Romanian standards, and most people will recognize a name or two from London Irish, Perpignan and Bordeaux.

Romania also can boast a player who is attending his fourth World Cup: Lucien Sirbu, who comes in wearing the half-back’s jersey.

What to expect:
Scotland should dominate the majority of this game; they are by far the more experienced team and will be looking to hit the ground running with a solid win under their belts. The Romanians will no doubt attempt to match the quick ball of their opposition, but we will also see the Romanians get under the Scots’ skins by slowing the ball down. The Romanians are also a very physical team and not afraid of making the big tackles, so expect a bit of a bruising!

All Eyes On:
Chris Paterson – now holding the title of being a Scottish Rugby record breaker, this is Paterson’s fourth World Cup. And all eyes will be on him for this crucial game, which some think is most likely to see an upset. Whilst Ruaridh Jackson is still establishing himself as the first choice fly-half, the kicking will be Paterson’s duty.
Paterson is the more steadying influence on the younger element of the team, and we can expect to see him making some excellent kicks, despite the forecasted wind, catches, and being invaluable in support.

Ovidiu Tonita – as aforementioned, Tonita has returned to full fitness after receiving a knock during Romania’s warm up games. A key part of the team, he is a very experienced player, and plays his club rugby in Perpignan. He has been quoted as saying that he “just wants to play good rugby” and the team are eyeing the match against local rivals Georgia as their must win game. Expect to see lots of European flair in his play, as well as use of his hefty frame in tackles. With the Romanians relying heavily on their strong forwards, Tonita will definitely be one to watch during this encounter.

Head to Head: Ross Ford v Marcus Tincu
Ross Ford will lead out the Scotland team ahead of the game, as this marks his 50th cap. And Marcus Tincu will be captaining his side. Both have played in previous World Cups, and will be looking to bring this experience to the game. The similarities continue as they are seasoned hookers for their domestic sides.

This battle will also draw upon the support that both have either side of them in the scrum. And whilst on an individual level I think that Tincu edges Ford, when the other members of the front row are brought into the equation, the victory belongs to Scotland, especially if they have been working as hard at their scrum as they say they have!

Previous Encounters:
The teams met at the 2007 World Cup, where Scotland came away with an impressive 42-0 win.

Max 13°, cloudy with chance of rain showers, easterly wind.

Scotland should win this game comfortably. If they do not, be worried. Scotland by 12

By Christine Lester