Romania: Rugby World Cup 2023 review

Romania: Rugby World Cup 2023 review

Romania had three tough tests in the 'pool of death' before pushing Tonga hard in their final game.

Abiding memory

Scrum-half Florin Surugiu's beaming face as he jumped to his feet after scoring a try against Tonga in his 104th and final test is the image that will be synonymous with Romania's 2023 campaign. His delight was mirrored by his teammates who embraced the 38-year-old, who had been emotional pre-match knowing it would be his final bow.

Try of the tournament

When Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton put his boot to the ball in the third minute against Romania, many would have thought the opening try was imminent for the men in green. But Hinckley Vaovasa read the play well, picking up the ball on the halfway line before making a lightning break. He found Gabriel Rapanu on a great run to blow open the Irish defence and score.  Sadly it proved a false dawn as Ireland went on sccore 12 tries in an 82-8 victory. 

Quote that said it all

For non-Rugby Championship/Six Nations teams, many of their media briefings have focused on how the sides improve in the next Rugby World Cup cycle and inspire the next generation. Romania's head coach Eugen Apjok spoke passionately about what needs to be done for young people in the country to want to pick up a rugby ball.

"The people who live in Romania, the problem is the infrastructure; there are no stadiums so we have nothing to offer the children for them to come to training," he said. "There will be no performance if there is no investment, if there is no state strategy, if there is no development of stadia. [Without having] showers and decent conditions for children to train in, it will be very difficult to attract them to rugby."

Man of the moment

Marius Simionescu was a staple in the team which saw a raft of changes to the match-day 23 throughout the tournament. He was often the spark that lit the potential of the side and against Tonga he set the match on fire with an incredible try, racing onto Nicolas Onuțu's chip over the top and beating Tongan players to the punch over the try-line.

One for the future

Fly-half Alin Conache has not even played 10 matches for his country but the 21-year-old was selected for each game in France. He kicked four from five attempts off the tee against Tonga before picking up a late yellow card, but he will continue to improve with more experience.

From the Touchline

"Today it's not us who are the stars - it's you," was the message of the Romania team when they visited a children's hospital in the week building up to their final pool game against Tonga. Players from the squad met patients and asked the children for their own autographs. 

Key statistics

Romania scored their joint-fifth most points in a RWC game against Tonga with 24, equalled the tally they scored against Scotland in 2011. Their record is 37 points against Namibia in 2003.

Editor's verdict

Romania were placed in a fiendishly tough pool, which included three of the top five-ranked teams in the world, but they brought physicality at the scrum and moments of style. The Oaks were also under the direction of a relatively new coach in Eugen Apjok, after the abrupt resignation of Andy Robinson in December 2022. Like other performance nations, they will be hoping to have more exposure to higher-ranked teams before the next qualification cycle begins for RWC 2027.

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