Preview: Ireland v Romania

Date published: September 26 2015

Ireland will continue to ease into this year's Rugby World Cup when take on Romania on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

The Oaks will have only had four days to recover from playing France late on Wednesday.

Japan went from producing the World Cup's biggest shock to four days later being thrashed by Scotland, going some way to prove that it's almost impossible for the smaller nations to recover in time.

Romania never made life easy for France with the way their scrum competed and their physicality at the breakdown, holding Philippe Saint-André's side in check before les Bleus broke out late on.

The main issues was that despite being able to enjoy plenty of possession and territory on the back of that hard groundwork, they lacked enough cutting edge to trouble the French defence. 

If Romania can get their trio of gamebreakers into the game – Florin Vlaicu, Paula Kinikinilau and Catalin Fercu – then Ireland will be tested but the assumption is that the Six Nations champions will be covered defensively even though Romania are improving when it comes to playing the ball wide.

"We have started to play a more open game and that was clear [on Wednesday]. We are working even harder now to make sure we can match the Tier One nations," prop Paulica Ion said.

"We only get the opportunities maybe once or twice every two years to play the countries in the Six Nations. If we could play them more often I think we would have had a much tighter game yesterday."

Ireland will be fresher thanks to 12 changes from the side who easily defeated Canada last weekend, with Jamie Heaslip named captain as Paul O'Connell gets a half rest by being named on the bench.

Joe Schmidt is taking no risks with Jonathan Sexton and rightly so by resting him ahead of the double header against Italy and France to come, with the same going for Peter O'Mahony.

But Ireland's side for Sunday is still packed full of quality and it seems fair to expect them to produce more than France's second-string did against Romania earlier this week.

Cian Healy has a chance to get valuable minutes under his belt but it will be far from an easy ride at scrum-time for the Ireland star. 

Blessed with easily the most most comfortable opening of any of the Rugby World Cup contenders, anything other than a bonus-point win for Ireland would be unacceptable.

Schmidt said: “There’s a realisation from them, particularly after viewing Wednesday evening’s game with Romania playing France, there’s a realisation that it's an opportunity but also a massive responsibility from them to ensure that we get the result, and that’s going to take a bit of work.” 

Ones to Watch

For Ireland: Let's be honest, Tommy Bowe had maybe his worst performance in an Ireland shirt during the final warm-up match against England at Twickenham. What made it so strange was that ever since his Test debut Bowe has shown impressive consistency. His confidence might have been slightly dented after his missed tackle on Jonny May and this is the perfect chance for him to perform as we're used to seeing him do week in, week out. What's more, Bowe is only survivor from the Ireland side who last played Romania back in 2005.

For Romania: Fresh from being Romania's only try-scorer against France on Wednesday, Oyonnax flanker Valentin Ursache has another big job on his hands coming up against Heaslip and company. The 30-year-old is use to his fair share of big games after Oyonnax's rise in the Top 14, where Ursache has played since 2012, and he carried well against France while making a number of turnovers and 11 tackles in total.

Head-to-head: The two outside centres. Jared Payne will win his tenth cap for Ireland this weekend and the man who has stepped into Brian O'Driscoll's boots has acquitted himself well for his adopted country. Sunday's game gives Payne the chance to showcase his talents and possibly add a third international try to his tally after picking up his second in the win over Canada. Payne will be up against Paula Kinikinilau, picked out by the Irish squad earlier this week as Romania's most dangerous threat in the backs. The 29-year-old former Otago back will win his third cap on Sunday and should be key to Romania troubling Ireland's defence out wide.

Previous results:

2005: Ireland won 45-12 in Dublin
2003: Ireland won 45-17 in Gosford

2002: Ireland won 39-8 in Limerick

2001: Ireland won 37-3 in Bucharest

1999: Ireland won 44-14 in Dublin

Prediction: Romania's short turnaround will eventually tell in the second half, with Ireland getting their four-try bonus point plus a few more in another comfortable win before the crunch games. Ireland by 35!

Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Rob Kearney

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

Date: Sunday, September 27
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Kick-off: 16:45 local (15:45 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales),Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)