Rugby World Cup - It's important that we participate

Octavian Dan
English Section / 8 septembrie

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Versiunea în limba română

The Rugby World Cup kicks off today with a gala match between France and New Zealand. The Oaks (the Romanian national rugby team) are also competing in the tournament, but given that they are part of a very tough group, and their results this summer were quite poor, there won't be too many expectations of success. In fact, no one is giving them much of a chance to qualify from their group, but according to the principles of Olympism, what matters is that they participate. Even under these circumstances, rugby fans can look forward to a period filled with satisfaction.

The team has already immersed itself in the competitive atmosphere and is handling all the challenges outside the arenas with aplomb. Camped in Bordeaux, the Romanian national rugby team participated in the Welcome Ceremony for the Rugby World Cup in France, also known as the Caps Ceremony, which took place in Libourne, a town 25 km from Bordeaux, at Lamarque Barracks. Each Romanian player received a cap and a participation medal from World Rugby to remind them that they played in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The Oaks impressed by singing one of the team's favorite songs, "Treceţi, batalioane române, Carpaţii" (Pass, Romanian battalions, through the Carpathians). "We are preparing for battle, as the song says, and Saturday will definitely be a challenge for our team. The ceremony made them feel more like they've already entered the competition in the Rugby World Cup and prepares them more for Saturday," said Eugen Apjok, Romania's coach. Cristi Chirica, Romania's captain, added: "We are ready for the upcoming matches and eagerly await stepping onto the field and fighting with every ounce of sweat for our country's colors. It's a beautiful experience that we should go through, there are many young players, and I think every player enjoys these moments and the fact that they received the cap for RWC 2023. Romanians have received us very well; we didn't expect so many people. I'm glad they are with us, even far from home; they've made many sacrifices to be with us here." Officials from the local government were present at the ceremony, including the mayor of the town, Philippe Buisson, the vice president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, Laurence Rouede, the vice president of the Gironde department, Carole Guere, representatives of World Rugby, the director of Rugby World Cup RWLC (the players' representative), Melodie Robinson, and many Romanians living in France. In the Rugby World Cup, the Oaks are in Group B and will play their first match on September 9 against Ireland in Bordeaux, followed by matches on September 17 against South Africa (Bordeaux), September 30 against Scotland (Lille), and October 8 against Tonga (Lille).

Romania's squad for this competition is as follows: Props: Alexandru Savin (CSA Steaua), Gheorghe Gajion (Stade Montois), Thomas Creţu (Stade Francais), Alexandru Gordaş (CS Dinamo), Costel Burţilă (RC Hyères Carqueiranne La Crau), Iulian Harţig (RC Bassin d'Arcachon); Hookers: Ovidiu Cojocaru (CS Dinamo), Robert Irimescu (CSM Ştiinţa Baia Mare), Florin Bărdaşu (CSA Steaua); Locks: Adrian Motoc (Biarritz Olympique), Marius Iftimiciuc (US Carcassonne), Ştefan Iancu (CSM Ştiinţa Baia Mare); Back Row: Cristi Chirică (CS Dinamo), Andrei Gorin (RC Hyeres Carqueiranne La Crau), Vlad Neculau (SCM USV Timişoara), Dragoş Ser (CSA Steaua), Cristi Boboc (CSA Steaua), Florian Roşu (CSM Ştiinţa Baia Mare), Damian Strătilă (CSA Steaua); Scrum-halves: Gabriel Rupanu (SCM USV Timişoara), Florin Surugiu (CSA Steaua), Alin Conache (SCM USV Timişoara); Fly-halves: Gabriel Pop (CS Dinamo), Tudor Boldor (CS Dinamo); Wingers: Nicolas Onuţu (CS Vienne), Marius Simionescu (SCM USV Timişoara), Tangimana Fonovai (CSA Steaua); Centres: Taylor Gontineac (Rouen Normandie), Jason Tomane (CSM Ştiinţa Baia Mare), Tevita Manumua (SCM USV Timişoara), Taliauli Sikuea (CSM Ştiinţa Baia Mare); Full-backs: Hinckley Vaovasa (CSA Steaua), Sioeli Lama (CSA Steaua Bucureşti). In the Rugby World Cup, the Oaks are in Group B and will play their first match on September 9 against Ireland in Bordeaux, followed by matches on September 17 against South Africa (Bordeaux), September 30 against Scotland (Lille), and October 8 against Tonga (Lille).

It's worth mentioning that this summer, New Zealand coach Vern Cotter joined the technical staff of the Romanian national rugby team as a consultant. "I am delighted to be part of Romania's adventure at the Rugby World Cup. I have been following the team's training since the beginning of this year, from the Rugby Europe Championship, and I will be involved as a consultant for the World Cup, hoping that the Oaks will progress and play well, exceeding everyone's expectations," said Vern Cotter. At 61 years old, he has an impressive track record, serving as the forwards coach for the Crusaders team from 2005 to 2006 and coaching in France's Top 14 with Clermont from 2006 to 2014. He then took over the Scottish national team in 2014 and led them to success, including victories over Ireland, Wales, and Italy in the 2016-2017 Six Nations Championship. He returned to France to coach Montpellier in the Top 14, and from 2020, he coached the Fiji national team, which qualified for the World Cup in France. He resigned earlier this year for personal reasons.

Eugen Apjok, the head coach of the Romanian team, is a prominent figure in Romanian rugby, being named the country's best coach in 2016. After playing for Baia Mare, a club founded in 1977, he became the technical director of the club. In this role, he won seven national championships between 2009 and 2021, as well as three Romanian Cups. Apjok took over as the head coach of the Romanian national team in 2022, replacing Englishman Andy Robinson.

AFP doesn't give the Oaks any chance

"Romania, almost doomed to make a cameo appearance" at the Rugby World Cup, headlines AFP ahead of the tournament hosted by France, in which the Oaks will face Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, and Tonga in Group B. The agency points out: "Once a formidable stronghold before slipping down the European rugby hierarchy after the fall of communism, Romania approaches its ninth Rugby World Cup with no real illusions, in a Group B that is theoretically too tough for it. Gone are the days when the 'Oaks' could compete with and even defeat teams like France, Scotland, or Wales, when Bucharest was an unwelcoming destination, even for the All Blacks, who won with difficulty (14-6) in 1981. Since then, Romania, currently ranked 19th in the World Rugby rankings, has become an ordinary team, first overtaken by Italy in the early 2000s and then by Georgia, against whom it regularly stumbles and who, in preparations for the 2023 World Cup, beat them convincingly 56-6 in Tbilisi. With a squad mostly composed of players from the domestic league, joined by nine players from various French divisions, ranging from Top 14 to Nationale 2 (fourth division), Romania owes its participation in the 2023 World Cup only to Spain's disqualification for fielding an ineligible player in two preliminary matches. What can be expected from the current generation coached by Eugen Apjok, who took over after Englishman Andy Robinson's resignation in December? Not much, especially since the most well-known of his players, Atila Septar from Toulon, left the national team's training camp "for personal reasons" earlier this month. The contribution of experienced New Zealand coach Vern Cotter, who served as Fiji's coach until February, will not be in vain for Romania to try to make an impact in Group B, which includes the reigning world champion, South Africa, the world number one Ireland, Scotland, and Tonga."

The Oaks have six victories in their Rugby World Cup history, against Zimbabwe (1987), Fiji (1991), the USA (1999), Namibia (2003), Portugal (2007), and Canada (2015). The Rugby World Cup will take place from September 8 to October 28.

A force composed of 7,500 police officers and gendarmes will ensure security at the opening ceremony and the first match of the Rugby World Cup, which will take place today at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, announced French Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, as reported by EFE. "The level of security will be at its maximum," Darmanin promised during a press conference attended by French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera. The security measures will also extend to airports, train stations, public transportation, as well as areas designated for fans outside the stadiums, both in Paris and the other eight cities hosting the tournament. The French government wants to redeem itself after the organizational fiasco of the UEFA Champions League final held in May 2022 at the Stade de France between Real Madrid and FC Liverpool. Above all, France wants to demonstrate to the world that it can host the Olympic Games next year in Paris, adds EFE. During last year's Champions League final, French police used tear gas and pepper spray against English fans who were waiting to enter the stadium on the outskirts of Paris, but they couldn't control gangs of hooligans who attacked supporters of both teams. The Stade de France will host the opening match, several group stage matches, the semifinals, and the grand final on October 28.


Competition Schedule:

Group A

Friday, September 8

France vs. New Zealand (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:15)

Saturday, September 9

Italy vs. Namibia (Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne, 14:00)

Thursday, September 14

France vs. Uruguay (Stade Pierre-Mauroy - Lille, 22:00)

Friday, September 15

New Zealand vs. Namibia (Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse, 22:00)

Wednesday, September 20

Italy vs. Uruguay (Stade de Nice - Nice, 18:45)

Thursday, September 21

France vs. Namibia (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 22:00)

Wednesday, September 27

Uruguay vs. Namibia (OL Stadium - Lyon, 18:45)

Friday, September 29

New Zealand vs. Italy (OL Stadium - Lyon, 22:00)

Thursday, October 5

New Zealand vs. Uruguay (OL Stadium - Lyon, 22:00)

Friday, October 6

France vs. Italy (OL Stadium - Lyon, 22:00)

Group B

Saturday, September 9

Ireland vs. Romania (Stade de Bordeaux - Bordeaux, 16:30)

Sunday, September 10

South Africa vs. Scotland (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 18:45)

Saturday, September 16

Ireland vs. Tonga (Stade de la Beaujoire - Nantes, 22:00)

Sunday, September 17

South Africa vs. Romania (Stade de Bordeaux - Bordeaux, 16:00)

Saturday, September 23

South Africa vs. Ireland (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)

Sunday, September 24

Scotland vs. Tonga (Stade de Nice - Nice, 18:45)

Saturday, September 30

Scotland vs. Romania (Stade Pierre-Mauroy - Lille, 22:00)

Sunday, October 1

South Africa vs. Tonga (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 22:00)

Saturday, October 7

Ireland vs. Scotland (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)

Sunday, October 8

Tonga vs. Romania (Stade Pierre-Mauroy - Lille, 18:45)

Group C

Saturday, September 9

Australia vs. Georgia (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 19:00)

Sunday, September 10

Wales vs. Fiji (Stade de Bordeaux - Bordeaux, 22:00)

Saturday, September 16

Wales vs. Portugal (Stade de Nice - Nice, 18:45)

Sunday, September 17

Australia vs. Fiji (Stade Geoffroy-Guichard - Saint-Étienne, 18:45)

Saturday, September 23

Georgia vs. Portugal (Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse, 15:00)

Sunday, September 24

Wales vs. Australia (OL Stadium - Lyon, 22:00)

Saturday, September 30

Fiji vs. Georgia (Stade de Bordeaux - Bordeaux, 18:45)

Sunday, October 1

Australia vs. Portugal (Stade Geoffroy-Guichard - Saint-Étienne, 18:45)

Saturday, October 7

Wales vs. Georgia (Stade de la Beaujoire - Nantes, 16:00)

Sunday, October 8

Fiji vs. Portugal (Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse, 22:00)

Group D

Saturday, September 9

England vs. Argentina (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 22:00)

Sunday, September 10

Japan vs. Chile (Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse, 14:00)

Saturday, September 16

Samoa vs. Chile (Stade de Bordeaux - Bordeaux, 16:00)

Sunday, September 17

England vs. Japan (Stade de Nice - Nice, 22:00)

Friday, September 22

Argentina vs. Samoa (Stade Geoffroy-Guichard - Saint-Étienne, 18:45)

Saturday, September 23

England vs. Chile (Stade Pierre-Mauroy - Lille, 18:45)

Thursday, September 28

Japan vs. Samoa (Stadium de Toulouse - Toulouse, 22:00)

Saturday, September 30

Argentina vs. Chile (Stade de la Beaujoire - Nantes, 16:00)

Saturday, October 7

England vs. Samoa (Stade Pierre-Mauroy - Lille, 18:45)

Sunday, October 8

Japan vs. Argentina (Stade de la Beaujoire - Nantes, 14:00)


Saturday, October 14

Q1: Winner of Group C - Runner-up in Group D (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 18:00)

Q2: Winner of Group B - Runner-up in Group A (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)

Sunday, October 15

Q3: Winner of Group D - Runner-up in Group C (Stade de Marseille - Marseille, 18:00)

Q4: Winner of Group A - Runner-up in Group B (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)


Friday, October 20

Winner of Q1 - Winner of Q2 (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)

Saturday, October 21

Winner of Q3 - Winner of Q4 (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)


Friday, October 27

Losers of the semifinals (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00)


Saturday, October 28

Winners of the semifinals (Stade de France - Saint-Denis, 22:00).

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