Fiji will look to put the horrors of Cremona behind them as quickly as possible but will have to face the Oaks, undefeated in 2013, at home to do so.
ROMANIA vs FIJI
Saturday, November 23, 16:30 GMT, Bucharest
Discipline will have been the subject of most of the discussion this week between head coach Inoke Male and his beleaguered team. Whether or not they agree with the interpretations of last week’s referee is beside the point – if they are found guilty of even half as many indiscretions against Romania they will lose. In Florin Vlaicu the Oaks have one of the form goal kickers in world rugby, and when combined with their frightening strength at the scrum it bodes extremely ill for Fiji’s chances.
Coach Lynn Howells has his team playing exceptionally well at the moment, cognizant of their limitations but ruthlessly accurate at their strengths. Their forwards can compete up front with just about anybody, but their Achilles heel is their backline defense, which leaked several line breaks to the Canadians last weekend. Similar to the Italian game, the contrast in styles is what makes this match-up so intriguing.
Howells has freshened up his pack slightly by rotating Valentin Poparlan back in to the second row at the expense of Alin Coste, and replacing unavailable Stelian Burcea with defensive stalwart Alexandru Mitu. Similarly the midfield defense has been shored up with Vlaicu moving to flyhalf and Robert Dascalu coming in at centre to help Csaba Gal deal with the giant Nemani Nadolo. Vlaicu’s move means that Valentin Calafeteanu returns to scrumhalf after two subpar performances at no10 during the last two weeks.
Fiji have returned Brive duo Sisa Koyamaibole and Dominiko Waqaniburotu to their club, promoting Malakai Ravulo to start on the flank with Plymouth Albion’s Sam Matavesi called up to the squad as back row cover. Seremaia Naureure starts at hooker for the first time in nearly 18 months, with uncapped Peni Ravai acting as cover despite normally playing prop. Rookie scrumhalf Henry Seniloli also finds a spot on the bench with no room for Nikola Matawalu.
Romania are one win away from an undefeated calendar year, with a draw against Georgia the only blot on their record, and will be leaving it all on the pitch on Saturday. Fiji have been hampered by the cold all week and with the weather calling for damp winds, they will be feeling especially far from home. Look for the Oaks to pulverise the Fijian scrum and keep their forwards on the back foot all day. The boot of Vlaicu is front and centre once again and Romania make history with a 3 point win.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
Assistants: Sean Gallagher (IRFU) & John Carvill (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)