ROMANIA have a long rivalry with Italy and were bitterly disappointed to lose a close match in Marseilles last week, but that has fuelled an intent, as the Rugby World Cup rolls into Murrayfield tonight, to atone for the 42-point loss suffered the last time they met Scotland.
Sorin Socol, Romanian's captain, plays for Pau in France, now a second division club, but the 6ft 5ins lock performs with a passion which shows both a pride in wearing the Romanian jersey and a desire to be known for leading his country to unprecedented success. He warned yesterday that this squad were in far better shape than those who suffered a 48-6 defeat on the last visit to Murrayfield, in November.
He said of that meeting: "We were pressurised. We had two important games in two weeks - we qualified and then six days later we played Scotland. Everybody was partying and then we had to play a game. There has been no partying this time; we have been working really hard.
"The problem for us is experience of playing the best players, the best teams. This tournament gives us the chance to gain that experience. Hopefully, we will learn from the mistakes we made against Italy, and how to keep our frustrations from getting too much, and we will make this a much closer match than the last one.
"We were disappointed to have to play against Scotland, in the France World Cup, at Murrayfield, which is certain to help Scotland, but the game is on TV back home so our families will be able to see us play. We will play with great pride, for our country, and it will be a tough game."
Alongside Socol, three of Romania's most impressive players are Marius Tincu and Ovidiu Tonita, both of whom play with Nathan Hines at Perpignan, and his Pau teammate, full-back Iulian Dumitras. Hines has managed to pass some insight to the Scotland squad on Tincu, the typically bullish hooker, and No8 Tonita.
He said: "I know Marius and Ovidiu well from Perpignan and they are good, strong players; they are the guys Romania look to carry ball up. Not all of the Romanian guys who play in France play in the top division, but they will still all have learned a lot I'm sure from playing in French rugby.
"Ovidiu and Marius are good guys and I'm sure they were disappointed not to beat Italy. If they had been a bit more disciplined they probably would have won that game, but that will make it harder for us because they will take a lot of confidence from that game. But if we control it up front we should be okay.
"I'm quite relaxed about what they will throw at us, about how they will play because I know them I guess. I don't tend to under-estimate any opposition. But the important thing for us is to play as well as we can. I don't care how many points we take off them; I just care about how we play."
Romanian rugby is widely recognised to be on the rise again, after the tumultuous collapse of the Ceausescu regime in 1989 and the loss of the sport's reliance on the army. Those with good memories will remember the "Oaks" beating Scotland, Wales and France twice each in the 1980s and losing only 14-6 to New Zealand in 1981, in a game in which they were controversially denied two tries.
The difficult political and economic situation hit rugby hard and the rugby community was shocked when Italy overtook them and won entry to the Five Nations Championship - Romania's often-rejected target throughout the 1980s.
As Samoa and the USA drop places in the IRB world rankings this week, so Scotland and Romania rise one to tenth and 15th respectively. Romania are one spot above Georgia, which will serve as extra warning to any Scots expecting an easy game this evening.