Canada return to the scene of their one point defeat a year ago, hoping to salvage something from a mediocre European tour against the defiant Romanians. Things have not gone swimmingly for the Canucks, with personnel changes disrupting continuity and a handful of injuries making things even trickier, and while they are able to field a relatively strong lineup for this one, they have a lot of ground to make up from their struggles against Samoa.
Thankfully they do have captain Tyler Ardron to call on for the first time on tour, the Ospreys star recovering from an ankle problem to lead the side out in place of Huybert Buydens, who is likely relieved to focus on the scrum assault certain to arrive on Saturday afternoon. Kyle Gilmour is the one to drop out of the back row, with Jebb Sinclair moving to his favoured blindside flank position in a fairly meaty forward pack. Brett Beukeboom drops out with injury, replaced by Jon Phelan, who finished the game against Samoa. Ardron and Phelan should provide a big boost to the Canadian lineout, an area that has proved very problematic thus far on tour, and challenging the Romanians will be vital in stopping their vaunted rolling maul.
The only other change to the starting team is at flyhalf, where Patrick Parfrey steps in for Connor Braid, who has returned to Glasgow Warriors a week early, still on trial but hopefil of nailing down a full time professional contract. Parfrey had hardly thrived at the spot in his limited chances thus far, and had looked more comfortable at inside centre, but will have to step up on short notice against an tricky opponent.
Romania have made five changes to the side that slipped away against Japan, all in the pack. The top scrummaging front row of Mihai Lazăr, Otar Turashvili, and Horaţiu Pungea rolls out with destruction in its eyes, and is driven on by Alin Coste in the second row. Ovidiu Tonita and Daniel Carpo drop out of the back row injured, but there are more than capable replacements in Valentin Ursache and Stelian Burcea. Oyonnax star Ursache is a big boost to the side, having missed the entire calendar year thus far for various reasons. Arguably Romania’s strongest forward, he provides massive physicality in the tight-loose.
This is a dangerous match for Canada. There’s no doubt their scrum will be up against it. Romania are close to the top unit in Europe, and gave a very competant Japanese pack a torrid time a week ago. Canada has not looked good there and Jason Marshall will be under immense pressure from Lazăr and Turashvili. Their best bet is to avoid the scrum at all cost and focus on disrupting the lineout and playing field position. Romania defend well and take their points, so once again look for this to come down to a shootout between Florin Vlaicu and whoever kicks for Canada, Gordon McRorie or James Pritchard. It’s a tough call but Romania look to have enough muscle in the forwards to take this one again, take the home side by 6.
ROMANIA vs CANADA
Saturday, November 22, 16:30 GMT, Bucharest
Referee: Nick Briant (NZRU)
Assistants: Andrew McMenemy (SRU) & Lloyd Linton (SRU)
TMO: Geoff Warren (RFU)