Preview: France v Romania

Date published: September 22 2015

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France and Romania will face off for the 50th time at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday and the third occasion at a World Cup.

The Latin rivals haven't played on the world's biggest stage since 1991, but traditionally know each other well, having faced off regularly from the 60s through to the 90s.

The advent of the professional game has seen the two play less frequently, but the Oaks owe a lot to French rugby, with their progression as a side coming largely thanks to work from French coaches in the country.

While the collapse of communism had a major effect on the country's fortunes, they have remained one of the better European sides outside the Six Nations, and they will kick off their eighth World Cup campaign in this fixture.

Like European Nations Cup rivals Georgia, Romania's strength is in their forwards, and they could cause a second string French front row problems in the set-piece.

While they have some talent in their backs, depth is limited, and it's hard to see them making much of an impact in this game.

Four years ago they gave Scotland a real scare though, leading heading into the final ten minutes before falling away and they could give France a headache if they get the edge up front.

Players to watch: 

For France: While Philippe Saint-André appears to have settled on his first-choice side, Morgan Parra will feel that he could still fight his way to a starting spot. The experienced scrum-half is the only member of the starting backline to have played at a World Cup, and will get a chance to show all his leadership against Romania.

For Romania: Full-back Catalin Fercu is one of the most highly-regarded backs in Romanian rugby, and did enough to earn a contract with Saracens, who he joined last year. The 29-year-old is a dangerous counter-attacker and will look to punish France if they kick loosely. He will be appearing in his second World Cup, having previously played in 2007 but he was absent four years ago due to a fear of flying.

Head-to-head: There's a reasonable case to be made that France have the strongest scrum in the entire tournament but for all his size and ability around the park, Uini Atonio still needs to prove himself at the set-piece. He'll have his work cut out on Wednesday against Mihaita Lazar, the experienced Castres loosehead. One of the stars of the last World Cup, he'll be confident of getting the better of Atonio at scrum-time.

Team news: France have made 13 changes from the team that beat Italy in the opener, with Louis Picamoles and Noa Nakaitaci the only survivors. Wesley Fofana is fit to take his place, after missing the opener through injury, while Morgan Parra and Rémi Talès form a new-look half-back pairing. Dimitri Szarzewski captains the side from hooker and Bernard Le Roux will start at lock for the first time in his Test career.

Romania have gone with a full-strength line-up for their World Cup opener, despite a quick turnaround for their next game against Ireland. They have plenty of experience up front with props Mihaita Lazar and Paulica Ion, while Valentin Ursache is also a Top 14 regular with Oyonnax. Florin Vlaicu will play in his third World Cup for the Oaks after being named at inside centre.

Previous results:

2006: France won 62-14 in Bucharest
2003: France won 56-8 in Lens
2000: France won 67-20 in Bucharest
1999: France won 62-8 in Castres
1997: France won 39-3 in Lourdes
1997: France won 51-20 in Bucharest
1996: France won 64-12 in Aurillac
1995: France won 52-8 in Tucuman

Prediction: Even with a second string outfit, France should prove far too strong for Romania. The scrum battle should be interesting and it might take a while for les Bleus to pull away but anything less than a bonus-point win would be a surprise. France by 25!

The teams:

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Vincent Debaty
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud

Romania: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Adrian Apostol, 10 Danut Dumbrava, 9 Florin Surugiu, 8 Mihai Macovei (c), 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache, 5 Johan Van Heerden, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihaita Lazar 
Replacements: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Ovidiu Tonita, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Valentin Calafeteanu, 22 Ionut Botezatu, 23 Csaba Gal

Date: Saturday, September 23
Venue: Olympic Stadium, London
Kick-off: 20:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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