|Stanfill, Clever and LaValla will be key|
An intriguing match will be played on Saturday afternoon in Bucharest. Ranked 18th in the world Romania will host the 16th ranked United States of America. It is a Tier Two rivalry that has not been allowed to develop due to a lack of international competition between the two nations. Incredibly it will be the first ever test match between the teams ever to be played in Romania and the first match since 2005. There are a number of possible reasons for a lack of matches such as the former Churchill Cup competition taking place in June alongside the IRB Nations Cup and that November tours had seen the USA play in Western Europe, until recently. The USA played in Georgia in 2010 in a match that was of much importance to both nations and one that went down to the wire with Georgia winning with a late try. That match was followed up with Georgia playing in North America in June 2012 and the nation is set to play in South America in June 2013. Romania, in contrast do not tour and this needs to be addressed and quickly to avoid the former powerhouse during the communist days from becoming a genuine sinking ship.
During the communist era Romania was a strong and proud rugby nation. It was not allowed to compete in the Six Nations though and instead played matches outside of official tournaments. It had a solid record of defeating the likes of France and Italy and was for quite some time clearly a better side than the Italians. It´s chance in a Six Nations tournament never came as the tournament organizers ignored the ability of the Romanian national team duty to the country´s communist regime. As such Romania was never able to show just how good it was and following the collapse of communism and democratization in 1990 rugby has never been the same. Athletes had been semi-professional and it enabled them to be very well prepared and Romania had a good number of players. The base is now a thing of the past and the number of players in England and France has dropped off. At the same time the number of people playing rugby in the USA has boomed as has the number of professional rugby players either from the USA or elligible to play for the USA Eagles. This has seen the USA Eagles emerge as a team of the future with it beng a potential dark horse for future Rugby World Cup tournament´s.
A lack of resources has made it tough for Romania and this money it has played one test match while thwe USA has played two. The USA is coming off a loss against Tonga and a win over Russia while Romania lost against Japan two weeks ago but did not play a test last weekend. There is an emerging split between Two Tier Unions with some being well governed and able to turn over profits and others feeling the impacts of a deficit. USA, Canada and Japan are examples of unions able to both host reputable matches and play reputable matches abroad. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga ahve long struggled to host while Romania has long struggled to play abroad. Uruguay has long struggled to do both while Georgia is looking more like its North American rivals than Romania.
Despite there being a history of over 80 years of international competition between Romania and the United States of America there have only been four international matches. The first was played in 1924 in Colomiers, France as part of the Olympic Games in Paris in which the USA won the Gold Medal and continues to be the reigning Olympic Champion. Similar to the first match the three others were played at a neutral venue with neither Romania nor the USA playing host to a test match between the nations. The USA has overall won three and lost one but the game that Romania won was a key match, played in Dublin during Rugby World Cup 1999. The World Cup encounter was also the closest with Romania winning a nail-bitter by two points.
May 11 1924 USA 37-0 Romania, Colomiers
September 17 1988 USA 17-10 Russia, Moscow
October 09 1999 Romania 27-25 USA, Dublin
May 29 2005 USA 28-22 Romania, Tokyo
There are a lot of match-up´s to look out for in this game. Most interesting is the contrasting styles between the two teams with Romania playing a traditional game of 10 man rugby while the USA continue to struggle in the scrums but do very well with ball in hand and have a backline to rival any Tier Two side. Romania will have the better of the scrums and mauls but the USA should be strong at the breakdown and at the lineout. The USA´s backline will be hungry for tries and the team´s back-three are all great finishers. The physical centres will have a good battle against their Romanian counterparts. The most interesting battle scould be that between of the two biggest names of each team: Ovidiu Tonita v Todd Clever. Both have high workloads and will need to be extremely visible around the field if their team is to succeed in winning this match.
The style of rugby that the USA is playing is more likely to create tries than Romania´s style. The USA are building to being a more competitive team and there is reason to believe it could join the First Tier some time in the future. Romania, in contrast is all about the past and it needs to find a way of become the best team from the European Nations Championship again. The combination of the exposure to Rugby Sevens and to professional rugby in Japan or Western Europe should give the USA an advantage. USA to win by 10 points.
1 Petru Tamba, 2 Otar Turashvili , 3 Mihaita Lazar
4 Cosmin Ratiu , 5 Alin Coste
6 Vasile Rus, 8 Ovidiu Tonita, 7 Mihai Macovei
9 Florin Surugiu, 10 Andrei Filip
12 Csaba Gal, 13 Ionel Cazan
11 Ionut Botezatu, 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru
16 Andrei Radoi
17 Horatiu Pungea
18 Vlad Badalicescu
19 Alexandru Manta
20 Viorel Lucaci
21 Grigoras Diaconescu
22 Ionut Florea
23 Constantin Gheara
1 Shawn Pittman, 2 Chris Biller, 3 Eric Fry
4 Scott LaValla, 5 Lou Stanfill
6 John Quill, 8 Todd Clever, 7 Peter Dahl
9 Mike Petri, 10 Toby L´Estrange
12 Andrew Suniula, 13 Paul Emerick
11 Luke Hume, 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Taku Ngwenya
16 Derek Asbun
17 Nick Wallace
18 Zach Fenoglio
19 Graham Harriman
20 Iñazki Basauri
21 Robbie Shaw
22 Roland Suniula
23 Zach Pangelinan