England and Scotland now know their final pool opponents for next year’s World Cup with Romania the last team to qualify for the New Zealand tournament.
Romania held Uruguay to a 21-21 draw in Montevideo in the first play-off leg before triumphing 39-12 in Bucharest to maintain their 100% participation record at the World Cup. They now complete Pool B alongside Argentina, England, Scotland and Georgia, and from the 16 nations invited to the first tournament in 1987, only Zimbabwe will be missing at RWC 2011.
An extra 2,000 seats had been added to the venue in Bucharest and a youthful Uruguay side had no answer to Romania’s forward-dominated game as the hosts scored tries through Csabi Gal, Alexandru Manta, Catalin Fercu and Madalin Lemnaru as well as being awarded a penalty try. “We worked so hard for two years,” said Romania captain Sorin Socol. “The crowd helped us so much because we had difficult moments in the first half and they helped us through that, we felt them on the pitch with us. We played like a real team because the forwards dominated in the scrum and lineout, and the backs scored every time they had an opportunity.”
Romania coach Romeo Gontineac was also delighted by the performance, saying: “I feel like I’m flying now. It’s a pleasure to see the team play exactly as you train them, to the game plan.”
However, Gontineac knows the hard work is only just beginning as his side face several tough opponents in New Zealand. “The hardest job starts now,” he said. “We’ll try to construct a competitive team. Hopefully we’ll have 50 players until the summer to make a very good squad for the World Cup.”
As for Uruguay, they are already turning their attentions to qualifying for RWC 2015 in England after coming so close this time. Captain Carlos Arboleya said: “They were the better side, but I feel awful. I’m very sad. Hopefully we can get to the next World Cup. We’re going to work for that.”