The Oaks, who have played in every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987 but notched only five wins, may return home empty handed from a tough Pool D the includes France, Ireland, Italy and Canada.
Romania won the Nations Cup, also known as the ‘Six Nations B’, for the third time in four years in June yet such is the shortage of quality players at the team’s disposal that a single victory should be seen as a success.
Lynn Howells’s men are set to rely again on a strong team ethic and hard work without high-profile names. Romania’s backs are not from the top drawer, so fans will be looking to flanker Mihai Macovei, the team’s captain, as their main hope.
Former Wales caretaker coach Howells, who took charge of Romania in 2012, will also rely on fullback Catalin Fercu’s experience as a professional.
The Saracens speedster, who has 78 test caps and made three appearances for The Oaks at the 2007 World Cup in France, missed the tournament in New Zealand four years ago after withdrawing at the very last moment due to a fear of flying.
The Black Sea team are known for their huge forwards, led by Mihai Lazar, who has played in France since 2009 and won a Top 14 title with Castres Olympique two years ago.
“I want this World Cup to remain in Romanian rugby history as the first time we’ve achieved two victories,” said Lazar. Romania will automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan if they finish third in their pool.
Romania, ranked 17th, will be aiming to erase memories of their winless 2011 campaign with victory over Canada, who they beat 18-9 in a test last November when flyhalf Florin Vlaicu, their record points scorer with 554, landed six penalties.
For much of the 20th century, Romania were the sixth best team in Europe, ahead of Italy, and on the verge of joining the Five Nations in the mid-1980s.
In England, the Oaks hope pride and emotion fuelled by their desire to expand their game can overcome rankings, form and logic when they face the Azzurri in their final pool match in Exeter on Oct. 11.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)