Preview Romania v Spain – Battle Royale up front!
Based on its 56-year history the match Romania v Spain was expected to be just another run-of-the-mill affair in the second round of Rugby Europe Championship, yet after last week’s momentous Spanish victory over Russia, it has acquired a new significance, that could impact the fortunes of the two sides in the competition and beyond. The match will be played at the Cluj Arena, the scene of a comprehensive Romanian win two years ago. This time it may not be so easy, Chris Thau reports:
This is the 32nd match between the two countries since 1958, when they met for the first time at the unlikely venue of the Bruxelles International Exhibition. About 20 years later, the two countries started to play each other on a regular basis, as part of what then was called the FIRA Championship, of which both were founding members. The first Spanish win was recorded in 1992, a modest 6-0 in Madrid, followed by a second, exactly ten years later, with the Oaks acknowledging defeat at the paws of Los Leones, by the narrowest of margins 13-12 also in Madrid. The last time the two played each other, was also in Cluj in 2013, with the Romanians winning handsomely 32-6 to sign off their entry to the RWC 2015 tournament.
Both teams have won their Rugby Europe Championship first round matches, but there seem to be a difference between the ways the two coaches perceive the respective bonus-point wins. It is quite clear that Santos is delighted with the six-try win over the the Bears and would like to carry on in the same manner at Cluj. “The win against Russia has motivated our players but Romania is a much stronger side. We start hoping to win, but we are aware that this is going to be a difficult encounter,” he said before the match.
Not unexpectedly coach Santos, a former international hooker and captain of Spain during his playing days has identified the Romanian scrummage as one of their key assets and felt that by disrupting it may shift the balance in Spain’s favour. This is why, although the Spanish front five performed very well against their Russian counterparts, producing among others a pushover try, the coach, a former Spain hooker, decided to change the entire front row for the Romanian challenge. The pedigree of the new front row , who all play professional rugby abroad, is as impressive as the trio they replaced, with loose-head Fernando Martin Lopez a regular with the ProD2 club Massy, Marco Pinto Ferrer the hooker of Beziers RC also in ProD2, and tight-head Jesus Moreno Rodriguez, performing his trade with Leeds Carnegie in the English Championship.
Behind the pack, Santos has retained the influential scrum half Guillaume Rouet, of Bayonne, who played a significant role in last week’s winning performance as well as most of the back division that run riot against Russia. The only other change to the winning team was at fullback, with Angel Lopez Vasquez, taking over from two-tries hero Pedro Martin.
In the offing, a battle Royale between the two packs, with the Romanian front row also altered to include the newly arrived Andrei Ursache, a regular with the Carcassonne club and brother of Valentin, the blind-side flanker of the Oaks, who is playing for Oyonnax. The arrival of fullback Catalin Fercu from London has given the Romanians a bit of confidence, but the injury of their main kicker Florin Vlaicu and of scrum-half Florin Surugiu, has exposed the lack of depth in key positions. Last week, it was scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu who took over the kicking duties and he did an excellent job with 100% success rate.
Lynn Howells, the Welshman who coaches Romania, observed that there was a significant difference between the Spanish team Romania played two years ago and the present Leones XV. “The Spanish team play with very good structure, high levels of skill and are well organised in defence,” he said. He pointed out that the Romanian win against Portugal was not entirely satisfactory, for a team of Romanian’s ambitions and standard. “”We made too many unforced errors and I felt disappointed. We played well for 15-20 minutes, scored a few tries, and then lost our shape and started to make mistakes. It was a good win, but not a good performance and I told the players that it was not good enough for a team that is on its way to the RWC. To be fair, it is always like that with the first match. WE all know that the match against Spain is going to be very difficult and that we must go up at least a level.”
Romania 1. Mihaita Lazar, 2. Otar Turashvili, 3. Andrei Ursache, 4. Valentin Poparlan, 5. Marius Antonescu, 6. Viorel Lucaci, 7. Valentin Ursache, 8. Mihai Macovei (Captain), 9. Valentin Calafeteanu, 10. Danut Dumbrava, 11. Ionut Botezatu, 12. Csaba Gal, 13. Robert Dascalu, 14. Adrian Apostol, 15. Catalin Fercu,
Replacements : 16.Andrei Radoi, 17. Constantin Pristavita, 18. Horatiu Pungea, 19. Marius Sirbe, 20. Stelian Burcea, 21. Grigoras Diaconescu, 22.Florin Ionita, 23. Dorin Manole.
Spain: 1. Fernando Martin Lopez Perez, 2.Marco Pinto Ferrer, 3.Jesus Moreno Rodriguez, 4. Ignacio Villanueva Martín, 5.Jesus Recuerda Núñez (Captain), 6.David Barrera Howarth, 7. Gautier Gibouin Fontana, 8. Jaime Maria Nava de Olano, 9. Guillaume Guy Rouet, 10. Daniel Ross Snee, 11. Sebastien Ascarat, 12. Martin Heredia, 13. Marcos Gustavo Poggi Ranwez, 14. Julen Goia Iriberri, 15. Angel López Vázquez,
Replacements : 16. Lorenzo Gabriel Agustín Ortiz Crivelli, 17. Juan Anaya Lázaro, 18. Francisco Javier Sanz Benlloch, 19. David Gonzales, 20. Javier De Juan Roldán, 21. Gregory Maiquez, 22. Pablo Fontes de Castro, 23. Pablo Feijoo Ugalde.
Referee D. Wilkinson (Ieland) TJ : K. Barry (Ireland) B. O’Connell (Ireland)
POSSIBLE RR World Rankings outcome on Result
ROM (on 67.96 points) at home -vs- ESP (on 62.20 points)
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|If ROM win by 1-15 points||0.124||68.08||62.08||No|
|If ROM win by more than 15||0.186||68.15||62.01||No|
|If result is a draw||0.876||67.08||63.08||No|
|If ESP win by 1-15 points||1.876||66.08||64.08||No|
|If ESP win by more than 15||2.814||65.15||65.01||No|
2014-16 European Nations Cup > ENC 1A
|1||RESULT||7/02/2015||Portugal||10 v 37||Romania|
|2||RESULT||7/02/2015||Spain||43 v 20||Russia|
|4||PREVIEW||14/02/2015||Georgia||00 v 00||Portugal|
|5||PREVIEW||14/02/2015||Romania||00 v 00||Spain|
|6||PREVIEW||14/02/2015||Germany||00 v 00||Russia|
|7||Not .Played||28/02/2015||Spain||00 v 00||Georgia|
|8||Not .Played||28/02/2015||Russia||00 v 00||Romania|
|9||Not .Played||28/02/2015||Portugal||00 v 00||Germany|
|10||Not .Played||14/03/2015||Georgia||00 v 00||Russia|
|11||Not .Played||14/03/2015||Portugal||00 v 00||Spain|
|12||Not .Played||14/03/2015||Germany||00 v 00||Romania|
|13||Not .Played||21/03/2015||Romania||00 v 00||Georgia|
|14||Not .Played||21/03/2015||Russia||00 v 00||Portugal|