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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Weathered Oaks: Romanian rugby
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport

Playing colours: Yellow shirts, blue shorts
Anthem: Desteapta-te, Romane!
Nick name: The Oak Leaves

Romania scored a famous victory at the Arms Park in 1988
Rugby was introduced to Romania in 1913, the game (and even the first rugby ball!) being brought to the country by students returning from Paris.

The Romanian Rugby Union was not founded until 1931, although their first international had been played against the USA in 1919 and in 1924 they had won the bronze medal at the Paris Olympics.

It was in the 1960s and '70s that the Romanians began to compete more regularly against top-class opponents.

Their first win over France came in 1960, and in 1976 they made an ambitious tour of New Zealand.

'80s rule

Exposure at the highest level developed the country's game and they began to form their own distinctive style of play, built around giant, bruising packs.

That they were emerging as a real force on the world stage became clear at the Arms Park in 1979.

Wales v Romania
Chris Wyatt fends off a Romanian challenge
The visitors were only granted an unofficial, non-cap match, yet they led going into the dying minutes, and only a last-gasp drop goal from Gareth Davies salvaged a 13-12 victory for the men in red.

The improvement continued in 1980, when the Romanians crushed France in a record 15-0 win in Bucharest.

A trip to Lansdowne Road then yielded a 13-13 draw against Ireland.

With their game at an all-time high and Wales in an ever-downward spiral from the golden '70s, the men in red travelled to Bucharest in November 1983.

Butler's battlers

Missing the inspirational Terry Holmes, who had suffered a knee injury on the 1983 Lions tour, the selectors still felt confident enough to name six new caps in a team captained by Eddie Butler.

The Welsh were totally overwhelmed, falling to a devastating 24-6 defeat.

The Oak Leaves' first win over Scotland came in Bucharest in 1984, but it was Wales who provided their first away win against Five Nations opposition.

Jonathan Davies
They had a giant pack, looking at our forwards that day I thought, 'O God, we're in trouble'
Jonathan Davies
Davies' Dragons

The Romanians travelled to the Arms Park in 1988 with Wales in disarray after the disastrous summer tour of New Zealand.

BBC rugby pundit Jonathan Davies was captain that day and the memories still hurt:

"They had a giant pack," said Jonathan. "Looking at our forwards that day I thought, 'O God, we're in trouble'."

The visitors overpowered the Welsh eight, helping their team to a 15-9 win that sent shockwaves through Welsh rugby.

Recriminations even rebounded on Davies, Wales' star player.

A month later he went north to join Widnes rugby league club, denying Wales his services in the prime of his career.

The strength of the Romanian team was further demonstrated by a 12-6 away win over France in 1990, and an 18-12 success over Scotland the following year.

Barry Williams in action for Wales against Romania
Romania have struggled since the fall of the Iron Curtain
Fall of the east

However, the social, political and economic plights facing Romania at this time had a direct impact on her rugby, particularly given the strong links between sporting teams and the military in the country.

The most vivid evidence of the connections came at the height of the rising against Ceausescu in 1989 when Florica Murariu, who had captained his country to their Arms Park win in 1988, was shot dead.

Romania's rugby fortunes declined sharply, and when a Welsh team travelled to Bucharest for a World Cup seeding decider in 1994 the visitors came away with a 16-9 win, a superb Ieuan Evans try the highlight of a dull game.

By 1997, it was a sorry Romanian outfit that came to tour Wales.

After losing 36-21 to Wales A at Pontypridd, they faced a Test match at Wrexham's Racecourse ground.

Arwel Thomas contributed 23 points in a huge 70-21 Welsh victory.

Wales ran in 11 tries in a 81-9 win in Cardiff in 2001, and an easy 40-3 victory followed at Wrexham the following year.

The last encounter between the two teams came in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, an experimental Wales side ending the country's 11-game losing streak with a 54-8 win at the Racecourse.

Mike Phillips in action for Wales against Romania
Wales experimental sides have won success over Romania
From despair to where?

There have been some signs of encouragement for Romanian rugby in recent years as they have slowly climbed to 12 in the world rankings.

Sides have competed in the European Challenge Cup - although financial problems have dogged their attempts to take a fuller part - whilst other players have gained first-class experience in France.

At the last World Cup, the Oaks were hammered by Ireland, Australia and Argentina, but gained the consolation of a win in their final game with Namibia.

Indeed, they have won six of their last seven games, the highlight a 25-24 win over Six Nations outfit Italy in Bucharest in June.

Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Scrum V Extras


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