Friday, 11 November 2016

November 2016 preview: Romania

Romania (vs USA, Canada & Uruguay)
Image result for Romania rugby
2016 has been a low profile year so far for Romania, which for the most part of the ENC and Nations Cup they have attempted to freshen the side up with 15 new players winning their first cap this year (there are an additional 5 uncapped players in their 32 man November squad too). The year has involved both some ups, such as thrashing Russia and comfortably winning the Nations Cup for the fourth time in five years, and some lows, such as scraping past Spain by the skin of their teeth and getting pummelled by rivals Georgia.

There is some disappointment from Romanians at not getting a Pacific Island visit this year, which means they've only had one fixture all year against a higher ranked opponent. Nevertheless, this November window offers three winnable games and an interesting opportunity for this squad heading into RWC 2019 qualifiers.

The Oaks have notable holes in their squad with Mihai Macovei, Paula Kinikinilau, Valentin Ursache and Otar Turashvili all starters from the RWC who are either injured or unavailable. However both their North American opponents both also in rebuilding phases under new coaches, so may be vulnerable, particularly the Canadians whose pack the Oaks will be looking to bully and exploit in Bucharest as they did in 2014.

They will still be underdogs against both USA and Canada, and a lot of Romania's hopes rest on whether they can get a significant enough advantage up front and how successfully their recently qualified backs from overseas such as Jody Rose, Jack Umaga, Fonovai Tangimani and Stephen Shennan settle into the team.

It should be reiterated though that they are still underdogs, particularly against the USA who the Oaks have a poor record against. They have had issues in the build up with experienced players withdrawing, whilst their leading domestic team Timisoara Saracens (who provide 15 of their 32 man squad) did not fare particularly well in the European Challenge Cup. If they came away from this November with three wins, and ten wins from eleven this year, it would be a sensational achievement for a rebuilding side. Even two wins would be satisfactory, whilst one win against Uruguay (who Romania have never been troubled by whenever they've travelled for the Nations Cup) is the minimum expectation.

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