Wednesday, 2 April 2014

ENC 1B restarts as Moldova travel to Poland for first in string of must win games


This weekend kicks of the final month of fixtures in the second ENC division. The table is tightly poised to decide who is promoted to the top ENC division and who stays in the qualification race for the World Cup.

Saturday sees the resumption of ENC rugby with two important matches in the race for Rugby World Cup Qualification. Surging Moldova, on 25 table points, must win their three remaining fixtures to overtake current ENC 1B leaders Germany, on 29 points with two matches remaining. Moldova travel to Warsaw to face up-and-down Poland while Germany welcome strugglers Czech Republic in Heidelberg.

Poland's erratic form owes to a questionable change in selection policy mid-campaign, which saw French players qualifying for Poland on ancestry and coach Tomasz Putra controversially dumped for a new staff and an all-Polish squad. Results have not been favourable since, including a forgettable tournament in Sri Lanka that featured losses to the host country and African minnows Madagascar.

Moldova meanwhile have shown good progress, sending powerful front rowers Vadim Cobilas and Dmitri Arhip to Sale Sharks and Ospreys respectively in recent seasons, while others such as blockbusting number 8 Oleg Prepelita and towering lock Andrei Romanov have dominated Russia's professional league. Prepelita garnered the honour of Russia's best club player in 2013.

However Moldova's most intriguing player may well be a previously little-known English flyhalf, Craig Felston. The quirk of a Moldovan-born grandfather allowed the Esher academy product to debut for the Eastern Europeans in 2013. In two appearances since he has impressed, showing excellent game management and kicking prowess, earning praises from ENC observers, with some hailing him as the best flyhalf in international rugby's third tier. Aged just 21, he completed studies at Kingston University last year and moved on to appearances for London Irish A.
Moldova's new recruit:
Andrei Olari

With a steady playmaker now on board to compliment their large and dominant pack, Moldova look poised for a run toward the ENC 1B crown. From there, along with promotion to the second tier of European rugby, a possible matchup with former Soviet big brother Russia looms in the next round of Rugby World Cup Qualification. Moldova are intent on capitalising on their momentum with further recruitment adding French rugby league player Andrei Olari, expected to make his debut on Saturday. The Moldovan Rugby Federation have also promised two new rugby facilities to be constructed by autumn 2014, including one with an all-weather synthetic pitch.

Poland for their part have seen rugby's profile increase at home too, with the national team and local clubs playing matches at Euro 2012 football venues and attracting large crowds in recent seasons. However the union's self-defeating selection policy means that we expect Moldova to prevail and continue their unlikely run towards England 2015.

1 comment :

  1. Speaking of Moldova's travel to Poland - per Craig Felston this is the itinerary! "tomorrow at midnight we drive to Odessa (maybe 5 hours) then fly from there to Kiev and then from there to Poland!"