Soft introduction for Scotland
September 8, 2011
The onus will be on fly-half Ruaridh Jackson to make things happen for Scotland in Saturday's clash with Romania © Getty Images
Shortly before rivals Argentina and England lock horns in a real heavyweight clash in Dunedin, Scotland will kick off proceedings in Pool B with a game against one of the game's lightweights, Romania.
That is not to say that the Romanians do not pack a punch. They boast a powerful pack led by Perpignan hooker Marius Tincu and, in total, have been able to drawn upon eight members of the side which faced the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup in France, meaning they will be in no way, shape or form overawed either by the occasion or their opponents.
Still, the game really is all about how Scotland go about their business. After raising expectation levels with a stirring win over South Africa last November, Andy Robinson's men disappointed badly in this year's Six Nations, only avoiding the wooden spoon courtesy of a victory over Italy on the final weekend of the Championship.
However, victory over Ireland at Murrayfield last month has lifted spirits once more and there is now cautious optimism pervading the squad that they will be nicely primed to challenge England and Argentina for top spot after most likely easing their way into the tournament with facile wins over Romania and Georgia.
Scotland - Player to Watch: Ruaridh Jackson revealed earlier this week that he is determined to make the Scotland No.10 jersey his own during the World Cup so, now that he has been handed a start against the Romanians, he desperately needs to make the most of this gilt-edged opportunity to show off his full array of skills if he is to keep the far more experienced Dan Parks out of the side for the later clashes with Argentina and England.
Scotland - Team News: Paterson reclaims the fullback berth from Rory Lamont, who drops to the bench. Elsewhere in the back-line, Ruaridh Jackson gets the nod at fly-half ahead of Dan Parks, while Joe Ansbro and Sean Lamont are preferred to Nick De Luca and Graeme Morrison in midfield. In the pack, Ross Ford returns at hooker at the expense of Scott Lawson for what will be his 50th Test appearance for his country, and he will be joined in the front-row by recalled props Alan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross. Nathan Hines, meanwhile, is forced to make do with a seat on the bench, with Richie Gray taking his place in the second-row alongside skipper Alistair Kellock.
Romania - Player to Watch: Marius Tincu has made headlines throughout his career - and sometimes not for the right reasons, the Perpignan hooker having fallen foul of the citing commissioner on a couple of occasions. However, he is a talented, no-nonsense hooker who knows where the try-line is - three tries in his previous four World Cup appearances - and Romania will be counting on him to lead them through what is likely to be yet another difficult campaign.
Romania - Team News: In a boost for the Romanians, loose-head prop Mihaita Alexandru Lazar, who had been struggling with a shin injury, has been passed fit to take his place in the front-row alongside captain Marius Tincu and tight-head Paulica Ion. Openside flanker Ovidiu Tonita has also been cleared to start after recovering from a knock he sustained in last month's friendly against French outfit Perigueux. Ionel Cazan has been named amongst the replacements after shaking off the effects of a niggling foot problem but prop Nicolae Nere and winger Catalin Nicolae both miss out through injury.
Key Battle: Romania have a number of forwards earning their corn in France so they know a thing or two about the set-piece. Indeed, Tincu and his front-row colleagues to really try to stick it up to the Scots in the one area in which they can realistically hope to compete, the scrum.
Trivia: Scotland have never failed to get out of the pool stages of a World Cup
Stats: Scotland have won their last six fixtures against Romania, scoring an average of 45.8 points per game.
"We really respect Romania, who are a young side who are developing together. For us we've trained really well in the last three months and it's now about going out and delivering." - Scotland boss Andy Robinson is not taking victory for granted
"Scotland will try to play their own game. We'll try to slow down their game and play our own game. Scotland is a big team, a team that has played such good rugby. We are going to try and limit them. They like to play a fast game, and it will be hard for us. But we will not drop the guns for this match." - Romania head coach Romeo Stefan Gontineac is hoping to take the wind out of Scotland's sails
Prediction: Scotland will most likely know that they have been in a game given the undoubted strength of the Romanian pack but it is difficult to foresee anything other than a relatively easy win for Andy Robinson's side.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall
John Griffiths digs into the distant past to try to establish the identity of an England international whose life is a virtual mystery