Click here for photos from Romania’s training session at Wanderers RFC in Dublin on Thursday.
Pictured above: Agen lock Sorin Socol (centre), who captains Romania for the tenth successive time on Saturday, gathers his players in for a pep talk. 6ft 5in Socol, who turns 28 next week, was in the Romanian side that lost 45-17 to Ireland in a Pool A game at RWC2003 in Gosford.
Birlad-born back row Ovidiu Tonita, one of the better known Romanian players, will earn his 30th cap at Lansdowne Road. Tonita is one of two Romanian internationals at French club Perpignan – the other being prop Marius Tincu. The 25-year-old scored tries for Romania against Russia and Portugal earlier this year.
Philippe Berot is one of a number of Frenchmen involved in the Romanian coaching set-up. Berot, now 40, earned 19 Test caps as a winger for France between 1986 and 1989, ironically earning his first cap against Romania in Bucharest in ’86. Berot played twice against Ireland in his career – in France’s Five Nations wins in ’87 (19-13, Lansdowne Road) and ’88 (25-6, Parc des Princes, Paris). He kicked a conversion and three penalties in the Dublin meeting, and a conversion in the Paris game.
Centre Ionut Tofan, who is one of two changes to the Romanian side that beat Canada 22-20 last weekend. Tofan, 28, is one of the most experienced current Romanian internationals with 47 caps to his name. The France based back has played four times against Ireland in a Test career which stretches back to October 1997. Romania’s last visit to Lansdowne Road in ’99 saw Tofan come on as a substitute in a RWC clash. He started the other three – kicking a penalty in the 37-3 win for Ireland in Bucharest in 2001, another penalty in the 39-8 Irish win at Thomond Park in 2002, and he bagged a penalty and a conversion in the sides’ last meeting (Ireland 45 Romania 17, Gosford, RWC2003). Tofan, who has not played for Romania since March, has scored 300 Test points (11 tries, 49 conversions, 46 penalties and 3 drop goals) in all.
Young fly-half Ionut Dimofte is highly-rated but Saturday’s clash at Lansdowne Road will only be his third Test match as a starter. His opposite number David Humphreys boasts 71 caps – Dimofte, one of three home-based players in the Romanian XV, has just five caps to his name. The 21-year-old scored a try on his first start last November against the Czech Republic (38-14, Six Nations ‘B’), and kicked a penalty as number 10 in last week’s friendly win over Canada.
Pau flanker Alexandru Manta, who scored a late try to set up Romania’s historic first victory over Canada last week in Bucharest. Manta started the 2002 and 2003 Tests against Ireland and captained his country in the 2001 Six Nations ‘B’ win against Georgia (30-21). The 28-year-old has six tries to his name – including a hat-trick of touchdowns against Portugal in 2001.
**All photos by Dan Sheridan of Inpho Photography**