PHILADELPHIA, PA – It won’t be the All Blacks and it won’t be Soldier Field, but the Eagles have an important job to do this weekend. If the All Blacks match is going to matter in the long run, it has to be part of progress. Progress involves winning.
Romania’s last matches were in the IRB Nations Cup in June. They defeated Russia and Uruguay but lost to Emerging Ireland. The squad from that tournament is quite different from the lineup that will face the Eagles. Last winter, the only loss in the 6 Nations B competition was to Georgia in Tbilisi.
Five starters for the Oaks are also Bucharest Wolves who recently played (and lost to) the Newcastle Falcons and Stade Francais Paris. Florin Vlaicu, starting at inside center, is the Wolves all-time leading scorer. The Wolves only compete in the European Challenge Cup (formerly the Amlin Cup).
The strength for the Romanians will likely be the forwards, especially the front row. Mihaita Lazar plays for Castres and Ion Paulica is a veteran who has played for a variety of professional clubs in England and France.
At fullback, Catalin Fercu recently moved from the Timisoara Saracens to Saracens proper in London. Both wingers and both centers are Wolves, so the Eagles will have to be prepared for an organized defense and players used to playing together.
For the Eagles, the lineup looks different from last week as all of the Aviva Premiership players have returned to their clubs, Scott LaValla is back with Stade Francais Paris for their match against Clermont, and Brett Thompson and Danny Barrett are out with injuries. But the lineup has quite a bit of overlap with the Americas Rugby Championship.
This is the same front row that started against Uruguay and Canada A in the Americas Rugby Championship. Those were both wins. While the Eagles will be missing the scorers of their 4 tries against Canada and their 4 tries against Japan in June, Tim Stanfill scored 4 tries in 3 matches at the ARC and will fill some of the gap.
Folau Niua starts for the first time at fullback for the Eagles. He has a good step and seems to enjoy attacking rugby. One thing that is tough to predict is how he will work with Takudzwa Ngwenya. Ngwenya has provided some great highlights for the Eagles and Biarritz, but has been out of the US picture for a while now.
Over the last year, both Romania and the USA have beaten Canada, Uruguay, and Russia. The Americans also defeated Georgia last fall.
If we consider the Wolves in the Challenge Cup to be like the Eagles Select XV in the Americas Rugby Championship, then the squads are in similar places. Assuming Todd Clever, Tai Tuisamoa, and Louis Stanfill can set the physical tone for the Eagles, the Eagles finishers will give the visitors the edge in a close match.
The match kicks off at 11:30 EST and will be streamed here.
1. Nick Wallace 2. Phil Thiel 3. Olive Kilifi 4. Tai Tuisamoa 5. Louis Stanfill 6. Todd Clever (C) 7. John Quill 8. Matt Trouville 9. Mike Petri 10. Adam Siddall 11. Tim Stanfill 12. Andrew Suniula 13. Seamus Kelly 14. Taku Ngwenya 15. Folau Niua
16. Tom Coolican 17. Benjamin Tarr 18. Mate Moeakiola 19. Greg Peterson 20. John Cullen 21. Kyle Sumsion 22. Shalom Suniula 23. Roland Suniula
1. Mihaita Lazar, 2. Otar Turashvili, 3. Ion Paulica, 4. Marius Sirbe, 5. Alin Coste, 6. Mihai Macovei, 7. Ovidiu Tonita, 8. Daniel Carpo, 9. Valentin Calafeteanu, 10. Dorin Manole, 11. Robert Neagu, 12. Florin Vlaicu, 13. Csaba Gal, 14. Adrian Apostol, 15. Catalin Fercu.
16. Andrei Radoi, 17. Andrei Ursache, 18. Horatiu Pungea, 19. Valentin Popirlan, 20. Vlad Nistor, 21. Florin Surugiu, 22. Robert Dascalu, 23. Florin Ionita
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