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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Murray And Payne Highlight Romanian Threats

Murray And Payne Highlight Romanian Threats

Conor Murray and Jared Payne have spoken about some of the threats Ireland will face from Romania on Sunday, singling out full-back Catalin Fercu and centre Paula Kinikinilau for their attacking abilities.

Romania open their Rugby World Cup campaign against France tonight, affording Ireland a chance to run the rule over the Oaks side ahead of their meeting at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

While Mike Ross and Jack McGrath have already highlighted the power and durability of the Romanian scrum, Ireland scrum half Conor Murray says their backs can cause plenty of damage as broken-field runners.

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“(Catalin) Fercu is the full-back with almost 80 caps. He’s well capable of countering, with their wingers as well. Both their nines are quite dangerous as well. If they get into broken play they really back themselves, especially after a line break or something like that,” said Murray

“They really get excited and really try to finish off a move like that. They back their offloads and they back their unstructured play. The video analysts have a lot of footage for us to watch.”

The Romanians come into the World Cup on the back of a 21-16 defeat to Tonga, but have beaten the likes of Uruguay (34-16), Russia (20-18), Canada (18-9) and Namibia (43-3) over the past 15 months.

Test matches between Ireland and Romania are rare, with their last clash a full 10 years ago at Lansdowne Road when Fercu was a starter in the number 15 jersey. Tommy Bowe featured on the left wing for Ireland in that 43-12 win, while current forwards coach Simon Easterby an unused replacement.

Romania provided the stiffest opposition for Emerging Ireland during their Nations Cup success in Bucharest last year, making Dan McFarland’s men work hard for a 31-10 victory in the final round of matches.

Whether he starts or is involved on the bench, Murray summed up the squad’s level of anticipation for playing at the world famous Wembley Stadium which drew a RWC record crowd of 89,019 for New Zealand’s victory over Argentina last Sunday.

“Playing in Wembley with the talk of a huge crowd there, it’s going to be great for both teams and both sets of fans. It promises to be a great occasion. I think it’s 90-odd thousand, and there were rumours that we might beat that attendance record set by All Blacks and Argentina.”

Ireland did play at the old Wembley during the 1999 Five Nations Championship, beating Wales 29-23 while the Millennium Stadium was being finished. And more recently, in October 2010, Joe Schmidt and eight of Ireland’s current World Cup squad were involved in Leinster’s 25-23 Heineken Cup pool victory over Saracens at the iconic London ground.

During his formative years in Tauranga, Wembley was literally a world away from Jared Payne. The nine-times capped centre quipped: “I wouldn’t even know what Wembley was when I was growing up back in New Zealand! The whole (World Cup) experience has just been unreal with the fans in Cardiff and the atmosphere. I’m just loving it.”

Asked about Sunday’s opponents and the fact that Romania have to negotiate a four-day turnaround, Payne said: “They’ve got a centre in there, Paula Kinikinilau, who is pretty dangerous with the ball, so we’re going to have to shut him down.

“If we go that way (play a fast-paced game), it could be an advantage to us. But, at the same time, as a player you sometimes don’t mind the four-day turnaround as you don’t have to do too much in the gym and too much on the pitch. You get to relax in between and you get to just front up for the game, so it could work in their favour as well.”

Although admitting his own performance against Canada was ‘a bit patchy’, the Ulster back scored his second try in four Tests, made 97 metres and made three clean breaks during the Pool D opener in Cardiff.

“I was pleased enough in defence and there was a few good moments in attack but setting up DTH (van der Merwe from a blocked kick) wasn’t one of my finer moments, but that happens in rugby doesn’t it…”

Having missed the Canada encounter with a hamstring strain, Robbie Henshaw, Payne’s centre partner from last season’s Six Nations, is yet to train fully with the team this week. Friday is decision day regarding the Athlone man’s fitness, but Payne is confident that the Irish midfield will deliver against Romania no matter who starts.

“There was obviously some pretty big boots to fill for running the midfield with Darce (Gordon D’Arcy) and Drico (Brian O’Driscoll) going. We got thrown in there but I think we handled it reasonably well. With Lukey (Fitzgerald) and Darren (Cave) performing pretty well, there’s bit of depth there.”