By Chris Thau in Bucharest
A full house is expected at the Arcul de Triumf stadium for the winner-takes-all clash between hosts and reigning champions Romania and Emerging Italy, which will bring the curtain down on another successful IRB Nations Cup.
Romania and Emerging Italy are both tied on eight points at the top of the standings after wins in their opening two matches, with Russia and Argentina Jaguars bringing up the rear.
Romania coach Lynn Howells has made six changes to the team that defeated the Jaguars 30-8 in round two, with Stephen Hihetah, the sixth Romanian player to win international honours this tournament, making his debut on the wing.
“Our objective is to discover more talented players capable of playing at international level and so far we have been fairly successful this year,” Howells said.
The Romanian starting front row includes the 20-year-old loosehead sensation Constantin Pristavita, who made his international debut in the opening match against Russia, and giant tighthead Horatiu Pungea, at 130 kg the heaviest man in the tournament. Emerging Italy coach Andrea Sgorlon has also announced a revised XV for Sunday’s match, with three changes in the pack and three in the back division.
The seventh change, which is positional, is indicative of the intentions of the Italians to play an expansive game, with the man of the match against Russia, Cavalieri Prato fly half Simone Ragusi, moving to full back to accommodate Benetton Treviso’s Italian-Australian fly half James Ambrosini at No.10. The clash between the giant Romanian pack and the nimble-footed Italian back division is expected to provide an intriguing contest.
Wooden spoon clash
The final day of the IRB Nations Cup commences with the wooden spoon clash between Russia and the Argentina Jaguars. Russia coach Kingsley Jones has made five changes to the team that started against Emerging Italy in round two, including a whole new front row, while the Jaguars announce eight changes, four in the backs and four in the pack. Rodrigo Bruno misses out through injury and is replaced as captain by Rosario centre Juan Pablo Estelles. Andrey Temnov retains the captain’s armband for Russia.
Both Jones and his Argentinean counterpart Daniel Hourcade are comparatively satisfied with the performances of their young players at this year’s tournament, despite the disappointment of losing both their matches so far. A win in the final game of the tournament would definitely add some gloss to their so far lacklustre campaign.