Romania is one of the strongest teams in the second tier of world rugby, and have taken part in every World Cup so far. They compete in the European Nations Cup with the likes of Portugal and Georgia – and ususally win it.
The 1980s and early 90s saw the best period for rugby in Romania as they recorded victories over Wales, Scotland and France, a draw with Ireland and a narrow defeat by the All Blacks. However, since the dawn of professionalism, player numbers have dwindled with many seeking employment in France and Italy. Indeed in 2001, the Romanians suffered their heaviest ever defeat when they lost 138-0 to England at Twickenham.
Coach Daniel Santamans has named seven players in his squad that play in the French Top 14 or the Guinness Premiership in England, while several others play in France’s second division. The Oaks traditionally employ a forward-dominated gameplan, using their big Eastern European brutes effectively, and this is where their most well-known players are to be found. Their captain Sorin Socul plays for Pau, whilst other recognisable names include Cezar Popescu of Agen, Petru Balan of Brive and Ion Paulica of Bath.
‘The Oaks’ will line up in Pool C at this year’s tournament alongside New Zealand, Italy, Scotland and Portugal, where they will be looking to improve upon their record of only one win at any World Cup. This may represent their best chance of reaching the latter stages of the event, given that (behind the All Blacks), they are in one of the weakest groups.
However, I’d expect to see a fourth place finish in the pool after beating Portugal for their only win.