Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Romania, Rugby World Cup 2023: Match Preview pt I

Scotland vs Romania
Scotland vs Romania - graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog


2023 Rugby World CupSat 30th Sep 2023Stade Pierre-Mauroy, LilleKick-off: 8:00 pm (UK)84-0


Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)| TV: ITV1/STV

While it’s not impossible that Scotland could still qualify for the RWC quarter-finals with another result, a bonus point win against Romania is pretty much essential as Gregor Townsend’s men look for a route out of Pool B.

These sides have met on 7 previous occasions in the professional era – including at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups – and Scotland have managed at least 4 tries in each of those games. In fact, they average 6.1 tries per fixture against Romania in this period (although it’s worth noting that prior to professionalism, the dark blues lost to The Oaks not once but twice, and only managed 4+ tries in 2 out of 6 matches).

Since bonus points were introduced at World Cups, Scotland have secured try BPs against the 2 lowest seeded teams in their pools 10 times from 11 attempts:

  • 2003 v Japan – 5 tries
  • 2003 v USA – 5
  • 2007 v Portugal – 8
  • 2007 v Romania – 6
  • 2011 v Romania – 4
  • 2011 v Georgia – 0
  • 2015 v Japan – 5
  • 2015 v USA – 5
  • 2019 v Samoa – 4
  • 2019 v Russia – 9
  • 2023 v Tonga – 7

SWOT analysis follow-up

Strength – Kicking from hand

Scotland were far more able to impose their own kicking game on Tonga compared to how reactive they had to be against South Africa. The majority of the second half was played in Tongan territory as Finn Russell gave a masterclass on how to build pressure. The Scots may well feel they should have taken even more from the positions they were able to get in though, starting numerous possessions less than 30m from the Sea Eagles’ line.

Weakness – Lineouts

There was a definite improvement with a more solid 85% completion. The failures came in attacking areas of the pitch again though which will be a serious concern for upcoming games when those shots in the 22 will be rare currency indeed and cannot afford to be squandered.

Opportunity – Chances created

7 tries was a healthy return but there were plenty more attacking possessions and a feeling that the dark blues left at least 3 or 4 more scores out there. Romania may not be the game to test this further but Ireland will almost certainly need a high conversion rate if a win is to be achieved.

Threat – Kick contests

Tonga kicked and challenged early in the match and, this time round, the Scots’ themselves were putting up more contestables, although possession was only retained once. Either that has to increase or the kicks should just go longer to gain territory and allow the defence to contain

Hmmmm – Scrums

To a non-expert pair of eyes, the 2 scrum penalties called against Scotland seemed wrong. On most occasions when the ball stayed in the setpiece for any length of time, all the pressure was coming from the Scottish pack although rarely enough to win the ball or convince the ref to award a penalty.

How possessions ended Scotland (43) v Tonga (40):


Handling error
Score (try or pen)
Ruck/tackle turnover
Penalty/FK conceded
Lineout lost
Held up
Pass/carry into touch
Ball made dead




Handling errors include knock ons, forward passes and interceptions.

The post game analysis may have gone in quite heavily on the breakdown where Scotland were -3 on possessions having lost the ball 5 times and only won it twice from Tonga.

These numbers may have been worse if not for some pretty crucial interventions from Sione Tuipulotu at a number of attacking rucks. Regularly burning the 2nd playmaker on clearing out doesn’t seem like a sustainable choice though if the attack is going to function at a high level against the very best sides.

Romania Scouting Report

Magnus Peacock has already taken a look at where Romania stood ahead of the 2023 RWC. Here are some key stats from their opening pool fixtures against Ireland and South Africa:

  • 75 missed tackles. The struggles are right across the pitch for The Oaks. The starting back row have missed 8 in each game. Nicolas Onutu on the wing has missed 9 across the opening 2 pool matches.
  • Romania have also conceded 33 clean breaks.
  • That has led to an enormous disparity in metres made with ball in hamd. While Romania have made just 558m ball on hand their opponents have racked up just under 2 kilometres (1,908m).
  • The Oaks average 15 penalties conceded against 6 won in their 2 games so far.
  • They only made 48 passes against Ireland (Finn Russell made 41 on his own versus Tonga).
  • The danger man in the backs is stand off, Hinckley Vaovasa who accounted for a significant proportion of his side’s attack against the Irish – 148m out of 312m made; 2 of their 3 clean breaks; 9 of their 11 defenders beaten.
  • In the pack, Cristian Chirica will be the one to try and contain. Romania’s forwards combined for just 50m v Ireland with Chirica responsible for 38m of that tally.

Previous Results

This will be the 14th time that these nations have clashed at Test level. The head to head looks like this from a Scottish perspective:


Most recent match, 10th September 2011 at Rugby Park, Invercargill:

Scotland 34 – 24 Romania

Here are the moments when a Richie Vernon / Simon Danielli combo saved Scotland’s blushes when they combined for a late brace of tries.

Significant stat
4 – tackles missed by Scotland. Despite this parsimony in defence, only allowing the Romanians to make 184 metres with ball in hand, the Scots still conceded 2 tries and allowed The Oaks 7 shots at goal (6 penalties and 1 drop goal – fortunately they only succeeded with 4).

A lack of efficiency in their own attack and poor discipline allowing Romania easy access to the Scottish half made a game that should probably have been a blow out a very nervous experience indeed. Something for the 2023 generation to ponder ahead of Saturday.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.


Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referee 2: James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Scotland’s record with Mr Barnes in charge is pretty tragic and they have rarely won the penalty count when the English official has been the ref. The most relevant game from past encounters might well be the RWC match against Russia in 2019 where Mr Barnes just let the game flow, only awarding 7 penalties – something that should suit how the Scots want to play but requires them to keep the breakdowns efficient and not allow Romania to slow the ball.

Scotland’s last 5 games with Mr Barnes as referee:

  • 2019 – lost to Ireland (N)
    Pens: 14 (For 8 – 6 Against)
    Cards: Ireland 1 YC
  • 2019 – beat Russia (N)
    Pens: 7 (For 3 – 4 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2020 – lost to France (H)
    Pens: 25 (For 9 – 16 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2021 – beat France (A)
    Pens: 30 (For 15 – 15 Against)
    Cards: France 1 YC; Scotland 1 YC (Hogg) & 1 RC (Russell)
  • 2022 – lost to Ireland (A)
    Pens: 25 (For 10 – 15 Against)
    Cards: Scotland 1 YC (White)

The Team

Scotland: Ollie Smith, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Cameron Redpath, Kyle Steyn, Ben Healy, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Ewan Ashman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist (capt), Luke Crosbie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, George Horne, Blair Kinghorn, Huw Jones.

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week after the team announcements.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion