Skip to main content

"Our hearts are full of pride" Romania prepare for Rugby World Cup 2023 adventure

After missing their first-ever World Cup in 2019, Romania is back on the RWC trail, and the “Oaks” worked intensively so they can be up to the task of playing against South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, and Tonga, in Pool B of the 2023 tournament.

Eugen Apjok named 45 players early in June but trimmed the squad to 33 after two hard months of graft, which saw the rise of a new wave of young stars, like Alin Conache, Gabriel Pop, Taylor Gontineac (the centre was selected as one of the best of 2023 Rugby Europe Championship players), Vlad Neculau, and Tudor Boldor.

Number-eight Cristi Chirica was named as the new captain, succeeding legend, and long-time skipper Mihai Macovei, who won’t be able to take part in the 2023 World Cup due to a serious calf injury.

Chirica said on the preparation of their first match, “We arrived in France a few days ago and the atmosphere is extraordinary. It's a joy for us to be here, a World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and for me to captain the team is a dream came true.

 “I know that everyone considers us the underdogs of the pool, but always in difficult moments, with strong opponents, we know how to come together and perform.

“We want to show that even though we are a small team our hearts are full of pride and we want to give everything in every match.

“We have many young players, we have been playing together for several years, we know each other very well and we know what we are capable of.”

The size of the task isn’t lost on the new Romania leader,” The confidence of my teammates in me and the fact that I have this honor to lead the team gives me an extra motivation to surpass myself. We play for our loved ones, for those who support us, honouring the embroidered Oak Leaf jersey. I hope to have as many fans as possible in the stands at all matches because their support gives us extraordinary energy.” 

Paul Popoaia and Mihai Muresan are some of the other “Oaks” who will miss the competition due to injury, which forced late changes to the squad.

Centurion Florin Surugiu is the sole Romanian player to have played in two previous World Cups, making 2023 his third appearance in the most coveted rugby tournament.  

Some Romanian data:

  • Florin Surugiu is the top veteran in the squad, as the experienced scrum-half is going to blow 39 candles when December comes, with only PJ van Lill (Namibia) topping him. He also is the Romanian player with the most caps, touting a total of 102 appearances.
  • Ovidiu Cojocaru is the top try scorer at the moment for the “Oaks”, as the hooker holds 13 tries to his name.
  • Prop Thomas Cretu and scrumhalf Alin Conache are the youngest in the team, at 21 years old, and both also played in the Rugby Europe youth competitions in the past.

Romania had a series of intense and challenging training camps between June and July, that were meant the team could acclimatize to conditions, refining their skills and molding their conditioning.

Prop Alexandru Savin talked with us through the process, and how it was to give a decisive push to the squad,

“In early June we worked on our fitness, focusing on getting in top condition, so we could put our gameplan into motion. After that we worked with the ball, mastering our skills and team strategy. Our staff tired us off, and it will pay dividends in the long run.”.

The “Oaks” had a tough warm-up Test Matches, conceding two losses against Georgia and Italy, but head coach Eugen Apjok was pleased with how the team evolved and grown. He also added what are the goals for the 2023 Rugby World Cup,

“The realistic goal is to get a win play good games, and prove we are a World Cup team that deserves to be here. We have worked hard and are ready to be in that stage!”.

Romania starts their ninth World Cup appearance on the 9th of September, and here is the full match schedule:

  •  On the 9th of September they will meet the nº1 World Rugby ranked nation, Ireland, in the Stade de Bordeaux (Bordeaux), and the action starts at 3.30 pm
  • South Africa is the next opponent, with the match booked for the 17th of September at 3 pm at the Stade de Bordeaux (Bordeaux).
  • On the 30th, Scotland will meet them in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy (Lille) at 9 pm.
  • Finally, Tonga will be their last match of the 2023 RWC, with everything set for the 8 of October at 5.45 pm in Stade Pierre-Mauroy (Lille).

By Francisco Isaac

Support Your Team

Sign up to hear first about latest news, video, competitions and more!

Unsubscribe at any time. We will not share your personal information. Read our Privacy Policy