Rugby World Cup
Romania coach Lynn Howells wants regular Tier One opponents
Alex Perry
October 11, 2015
Italy edge Romania in close encounter
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EXETER -- Romania head coach Lynn Howells says his side have done more than enough at the Rugby World Cup to prove they are worthy of consideration for an extended Six Nations.

The Romanians have caught the eye in this tournament and, despite missing out on automatic qualification to the 2019 World Cup after a 32-22 defeat to Italy at Sandy Park, Howells believes they belong at the top table.

When asked by ESPN if Romania's performances are vindication of just how close they are to the Tier One nations and whether talk of a Six Nations overhaul is justified, he said: "That's absolutely correct.

"We've shown that we can score tries and play rugby of a quality that is capable of playing against Tier One nations. What it shows is how close it is. We've proven we can compete and there is an avenue for us to go and play against these teams on a regular basis.

"For me it has been a good campaign, has given us the opportunity to play against Tier One nations and I just hope it is not four years before we play a Tier One nation again."

First-half tries from Italy's Leonardo Sarto, Edoardo Gori and Tommy Allan were added to by Alessandro Zanni soon after the break. But, much to the delight of the 11,450 fans packed into the home of Exeter Chiefs, Romania romped back to within 10 thanks to a Valentin Poparlan try and two tries from Adrian Apostol.

It proved too little too late, but victory for Romania would have strengthened calls for the Six Nations to include the likes of them and Georgia, who finished third in Pool C, and Howells believes an early yellow card for Johann Van Heerden was the only difference between them and Italy.

"We competed very well and we were able to score points, which is something Romania have not been renowned for," Howells said. "To lose a player and concede 10 points is the difference between winning and losing. If we'd had 10 more minutes we would have probably won the game.

"For me it is about controlling the game. We didn't control the contact area and that cost us the game."

For Howells long-term plan, though, it's back to the drawing board. "It is very difficult to assess at the moment because I'm disappointed with the way we have finished the campaign," he said. "We deserved more than that.

"But all in all we came to win against Canada, which we achieved, and to prove to the world we are capable of competing with Tier One nations and we did that as well.

"My disappointment tonight is that we had an opportunity to beat a Tier One nation and we didn't take it."

Italy coach Jacques Brunel also struggled to hide his disappointment that the Azzurri had failed to reach the quarterfinals.

When asked how he would celebrate beating Romania and booking their place for the 2019 World Cup, he cut the reporter short, saying: "I don't celebrate anything today.

"We [finished] third. We were close to qualification or to coming out of the pool and we didn't manage it, so to me that is a disappointment because I really thought we could do it.

"We need to evaluate, could we have come out [of the pool] or not? Maybe we could have and we will evaluate, this will be the question I ponder."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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