Rugby union in Romania

Rugby union is a moderately popular team sport played in Romania with a tradition of more than 100 years. The Romanian men's national team was 14th in the IRB World Rankings in February 2016.[3]

Rugby union in Romania
Ireland vs Romania rugby match.jpg
Romania versus Ireland at Lansdowne Road Stadium, Dublin in 2005.
Governing bodyRomanian Rugby Federation
National team(s)Romania
Nickname(s)The Oaks
First playedc. 1900
Registered players9,810[1]
National competitions
Club competitions
Audience records
Single matchca. 95.000 (19.05.1957) Romania vs. France (15-16)[2]

Governing bodyEdit

Rugby union in Romania is administered by the Romanian Rugby Federation (Federaţia Română de Rugby), which was founded in 1913 as Federațiunea Societăților de Sport din România (FSSR).[4] It joined the IRB in 1987 when Romania was invited to take part in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup.[5]

The current president is Alin Petrache


Early historyEdit

The game was introduced to Romania from France at the turn of the 20th century by students returning with rugby balls from their studies in Paris.[5] Romanian rugby took root in Bucharest, established by students who had been to French universities, and by the capital's burgeoning middle class.[5] Stadiul Român and seventeen other teams would be formed in Bucharest from 1913 onwards. The Romanian Rugby Championship was first contested in 1914. Romania played France for the first time in 1924.[5]

Romania versus France at the Inter-Allied Games of 1919

The nation's first international was played against the USA in 1919 six years after the game was first introduced.[4] In 1931 a governing body was formed, the Federaţia Română de Rugby.

The first team outside Bucharest was formed at an aircraft factory in Braşov in 1939.

Communist periodEdit

For the first half of the 20th century, Romanian rugby was fairly isolated, having most of its contact with France,[5] and to an extent, the Iron Curtain in the second half did not help either. However, this "isolation" was broken when Rowe Harding took the Welsh team Swansea touring there, to play national champions, Locomotiva.[5] On his return to the UK, Harding spoke highly of the Romanian game, speaking of its consistently high standard and of the passion of both the fans and the players, which he thought unparallelled in Europe outside the Five Nations.[5] The tour and Harding's praise effectively opened up Romanian rugby to the rest of western Europe, sparking a number of tours travelling to and from the country.[5] In 1955, a Romanian side toured England and Wales, playing Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol and the Harlequins, winning one, drawing two, and losing one.[5] Later in 1955, the Romanians defeated Llanelli in Moscow, and then beat both Cardiff and Harlequins in Bucharest.[5] Only France, who played Romania before almost 95,000 fans in Bucharest (in a preliminary match to a soccer international), could beat the Romanians, and that was only after an epic 16-15 battle.[5]

A generation of French school-trained coaches from the late 1940s and 1950s laid the foundations for national success in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In 1974 Romania won against France 15 – 10 in Bucharest,[6] and the FIRA – Association of European Rugby championship.[7] In 1975 Romania went for an 8 games tour to New Zealand, tour concluded in Wellington with a 10-10 draw against Junior All Blacks. Home nation sides began to award international caps for matches against Romania from 1981. Romania won rugby internationals over Scotland in 1984 and 1991, and also over Wales in 1983 and 1988 (the later in Cardiff).[5] Between 1960 and 1990, Romania beat France eight times, the most famous being in 1990 when the legendary French based no. 8 Hari Dumitras led Romania to a 12-6 victory in Auch, France.[5] Canadian second row Norm Hadley believed the 1991 Rugby World Cup game against Romania was more physically sapping than playing either France or New Zealand.[5]

The former All Blacks scrum half Chris Laidlaw, writing at the end of the 1970s, saw rugby as a positive force in East-West relations at the time:

"Rugby has become the ping-pong of outdoor sports in its capacity to spread goodwill between East and West. Over the last 30 or 40 years it has spread through Eastern Europe, establishing itself strongly in Rumania and Yugoslavia, Hungary and into the USSR. The fact that a Russian team [sic] has finally played a full-scale, if unofficial Test match against France speaks for itself.
"Rugby tours between countries on either side of the Iron Curtain have generated considerable political interest among the governments concerned, and the results can be quite astonishing. The recent Rumanian tour of New Zealand, for instance, germinated other contacts between the two countries and was partly instrumental in the establishment of new trade agreements which otherwise might not have begun."[8]

Chris Laidlaw writing of the open secret of shamateurism in Soviet sport said:

"So far as the East Europeans and the Russians are concerned, who knows where the incentives lie? In such societies rugby, like many other sports before it, is becoming an expression of national achievement and therefore the subject of careful nurturing. Yet, is the risk of the double standard, so evident in the athletic arena, permeating the East Europeans' approach to rugby so great as to justify the exclusion of the Communist world indefinitely from regular rugby competition?"[8]
"Much to everyone's surprise, Eastern Bloc countries are among the game's vigorous participants, seemingly oblivious to rugby's capitalist class-ridden origins. Russia emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and came under international scrutiny when they played France in Toulouse in November 1978. Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia are members of the Federation Internationale de Rugby Amateur, the governing body for those countries not in the IB."[9]


After the fall of Communism in 1989, Romanian rugby union suffered a dramatic financial shortfall. In 1995 the first ever Heineken Cup match took place in Romania with Toulouse taking on Farul Constanţa.

Romania first got regular international competition when they joined the newly formed European Nations Cup in 2000. As an indication of the decline in standard of the sport in Romania, the national team was defeated 134-0 by England in 2001 and Dinamo Bucharest lost 151-0 to Saracens in the European Rugby Shield.

Bucureşti Rugby was formed to represent Romania in European club competitions in 2004. In recent years they have achieved respectable results, including a win in 2010 against an Italian super 10 side.

National teamEdit

Romania national rugby union team after receiving the Pershing Trophy in 2016 at their home ground, Stadionul Arcul de Triumf after a test match against USA

The Romania national rugby union team, nicknamed The Oaks, has long been one of the stronger European teams outside the Six Nations tournament. It takes part in international competitions, notably the Rugby World Cup, the European Nations Cup and the Super Powers Cup.

Romania has played at every World Cup so far and won one game at each World Cup, except for 1995 and 2011 when it lost all its games.

Romania plays in the European Nations Cup, a second-level competition for second and third-tier European nations. Romania has won the competition on three occasions 2000, 2001–2002 and 2005-2006.

The Antim Cup is contested between Georgia and Romania. The cup is contested each time Georgia and Romania meet in a senior international match other than World Cup matches or qualifiers. The holder retains the cup unless the challenger wins the match in normal time.

Romania replaced Russia in the Super Cup in 2005. Other participants include Canada, Japan and the United States.

Domestic competitionsEdit

The CEC Bank SuperLiga, which has been contested since 1914, is the main domestic competition.

European club tournamentsEdit

In 1995 the first ever Heineken Cup match took place in Romania with Toulouse taking on Farul Constanţa. Since the inaugural season, Romanian teams have not taken part in the Heineken Cup.

A Romanian team has taken part in the European Challenge Cup in 1996−97, 1997−98, 1998−99, 1999−2000, 2001−02, 2002−03, and each season since 2005−06. No Romanian teams took part in 2000−01, 2003−04 and 2004−05.

Bucureşti Rugby is a team that is formed to play in European competition, consisting of rugby union players playing in the domestic Romanian leagues. They played in the European Shield in 2004−05, and have played in each Challenge Cup since the 2005−06 edition.


In the 1980s the country had more than 12,000 players in 110 clubs.

After the fall of Communism, Romanian rugby union suffered a drastic financial shortfall. Its popularity - which has never been comparable with that of football or handball - has not diminished, however.

According to the International Rugby Board Romania has 52 rugby union clubs; 142 referees; 1,200 pre-teen male players; 4,100 teen male players; 1,375 senior male players (total male players 6,675) as well as 150 pre-teen female players; 200 teen female players; 125 senior female players (total female players 475).[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Record mondial de spectatori pe "23 August"". 30 August 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  3. ^ "International Rugby Board - World Rankings: Full world rankings". Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Istoria sportului românesc: Rugby". Agerpres (in Romanian). 19 May 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bath pp 73, 74
  6. ^
  7. ^ 1974–1975 FIRA Trophy
  8. ^ a b Laidlaw, p52
  9. ^ Hopkins, John (ed) Rugby (1979 ISBN 0-304-30299-6), p8
  10. ^ Romania on[permanent dead link], retrieved 9 September 2009


Further readingEdit

  • Barbu, Aurel, Stama, Tiberiu, File din istoria rugbiului românesc, Editura Consiliului Național pentru Educație Fizică și Sport, București, 1969.
  • Manoileanu, Dumitru, Rugby: Mică enciclopedie, Editura Sport-Turism, București, 1982
  • Moldoveanu, Traian Rugby: istorie românească: povestită de un griviţean, Vol. I, Editura Scripta, București, 2016, ISBN 978-973-8238-56-5)

External linksEdit