France v Romania preview: Oaks look for World Cup moment of their own
Romania will be looking to take inspiration from the likes of Japan and Georgia as they have the tough task of beating France in their opening Rugby World Cup game at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
The French looked impressive when they kicked off their campaign against Italy, securing a 32-10 win. Romania, on the other hand, goes into the game surrounded by a controversy after complaining that the balls they were using to train were not suitable.
In rugby’s very own version of the ‘deflategate’ scandal that caused problems in the NFL, the Romanians have been complaining that the balls they are using to kick are flying five metres shorter than usual.
Despite the problems, it is unlikely this will be Romania’s biggest problem as they face a France XV who looked in excellent shape in their World Cup opener.
The two sides have met twice previously at the 1987 and 1991 World Cups, with France winning 55-12 and 30-3 respectively.
The only two players to keep their places from France’s opening success against the Azzurri at Twickenham are number eight Louis Picamoles and wing Noa Nakaitaci.
Centre Wesley Fofana, who is making his comeback from a thigh injury, is one of the 13 changes made by head coach Phillippe Saint-Andre as he looks to ensure his team are fresh due to them only having four days to prepare.
All eyes will be on the uncapped Castres Remy Grosso as he takes the place of Les Bleus star winger Yoann Huget after the 28-year-old was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a severe knee injury.
Romania have made just one change from their last World Cup warm-up game against Tonga, which they lost 21-16, with Mihaita Lazar coming in at loose-head prop in place of Andrei Ursache.
Welshman Lynn Howells, Romania head coach, has named the most experienced starting XV possible, with 684 test caps spread among the Oaks as they look to put a halt to a run of five straight defeats at Rugby World Cup finals stretching back to 2007.
Players to watch
The big centre is returning to the side after recovering from a thigh injury that ruled him out of the first set of fixtures. The 27-year-old is a big game player, and while the French may not be playing against the most troublesome of opponents, he will want to shine on the biggest stage of them all. He boasts tries against the top countries from around the world, including the likes of Australia, New Zealand and England and he will be looking to add to his eleven French tries here.
If the 5000-1 hopefuls are to have any chance of threatening France in the game, they have to look to their leader Macovei to drive the team on. He will have to keep the Oaks defence organised and help dominate at the scrum to get Romania a foothold in the game.
If the French get going early, it should be over by halftime. Despite making so many changes they have plenty of experience and should dominate in every area if the pitch The Romanians will be competitive in the scrum and won’t give up, but they should not really cause any real threat to Les Bleus. They may get a late consolation try for their efforts.
France by 35
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Vincent Debaty
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud
Romania: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Adrian Apostol, 10 Danut Dumbrava, 9 Florin Surugiu, 8 Mihai Macovei (c), 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache, 5 Johan Van Heerden, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Ovidiu Tonita, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Valentin Calafeteanu, 22 Ionut Botezatu, 23 Csaba Gal
Date: Saturday, September 23
Venue: Olympic Stadium, London
Kick-off: 20:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)