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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last Ticket for RWC 2011: Uruguay, or Romania?

Like the proverbial Golden Ticket from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there is one last ticket left for the Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year.

It will all come down to Romania or Uruguay to figure out who will join the 19 other teams in New Zealand. The winner of this playoff will be in the same group as England, Argentina, Scotland and The Republic of Georgia.

A couple of weeks ago, they played out a tense, 20-20 draw in sunny Montevideo(highlights above). This means that today's match in Bucharest will amount to a winner-take-all affair. Both teams have had to play a lot of rugby to get to this point-particularly the Romanians, who at first did not look like they would be able to get out of qualifying out of Europe, but qualify they did, and then they beat Tunisia to have a shot at Uruguay, who dispatched Kazakhstan to get to this point.

Romania has been to every Rugby World Cup since 1987.  They are bigger and more physical than Uruguay, and also have more players playing professionally in Europe-Uruguay only has one, all of the rest of the Teros play on clubs in Argentina. Like Georgia, the Romanians play is dominated by their forwards. Uruguay is going to have to depend on pace and kicking to have a shot at upsetting Romania today. The Romanians probably were hoping for poor weather conditions that would favor their big pack, but the forecast for today is for  12 degrees Celsius, or 54 degrees with partly cloudy skies and minimal wind at kickoff time.

Romania has to be the favorite, but you have to admire the plucky Uruguayans. Can their rugby team shock the rugby world like Diego Forlan and his Uruguayan team mates did at this past summer's FIFA World Cup in South Africa? Much to the shock of everyone, Uruguay won it's group, then made it to the semi-finals-the ONLY South American team to make it to the final four (Much to the chagrin of one Diego Maradona) Romania had plenty of chances to put the Teros away in Montevideo, but Uruguay was able to hang on for the draw. Will Uruguay make the Romanian's pay for a lack of killer instinct? A final, Golden Ticket awaits the winner that will allow them join the party at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.

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