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Howells calls on IRB to introduce Six Nations playoff

Wales’ former caretaker coach Howells, who took charge at Romania in 2012, said the team who finishes bottom in the Six Nations championship should have to fight for their place against the winners in the Nations Cup, also known as the ‘Six Nations B’.

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“We’ll play against France, Ireland and Italy at the World Cup,” Howells told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. “But what we want is to play against them before the World Cup, we should have an opportunity.”

Romania, who won the Nations Cup in 2012 and 2013, were drawn in the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s Pool D alongside France, Ireland, Italy and Canada.

Howells said Romania, who have played in every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987, will aim to win two matches in England next year.

“The reason to say that is if we win two games, we’ll automatically qualify for (the World Cup in) Japan in 2019,” he said.

For much of the 20th century, Romania were the sixth best team in Europe, ahead of Italy. In the mid-1980s, The Oaks were on the verge of joining the Five Nations.

But then the revolution happened with six internationals losing their lives in the fight to overthrow long-ruling dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The Oaks will start their preparation for the World Cup with a test against the United States on Saturday, followed by matches against Japan on Nov. 15 and Canada on Nov. 22.

“All tests are important but these are different,” said Howells. “There’s a different meaning for us because of the World Cup.

“We are in the process of putting the game plan together but we have an opportunity to play against quality opposition and see some fringe players and players who are fighting for places in our squad for the World Cup.”

PERSHING CUP

The Saturday test at the Arch of Triumph National Rugby Stadium in Bucharest will also give the Romanians a chance to win a trophy.

Romania were beaten 21-0 by the U.S. on June 22, 1919 in Paris in what is believed to be their first official international match, and the two federations are commemorating that event by launching the Pershing Cup.

“We have a beautiful history with the U.S. national team and I believe that this way of commemorating the first Romania match will delight both teams and the crowd,” the Romanian federation’s president Dumitru Haralambos said.

Howells will be forced to deal without some of his key players.

“We have a big problem as three of our players are injured and they’re all at the same position – Madalin Lemnaru, our first-choice wing, Ionut Dumitru and Andrei Ilie are not available,” he said.

“Unfortunately, they’re definitely out for the games against Japan and Canada too.”

Howells is expected to give young winger Robert Neagu a chance to make his Romania debut with Ovidiu Tonita, Dorin Manole and Adrian Apostol also vying for places in the starting lineup.

Howells will also be able to rely on fullback Catalin Fercu, who joined the Romanian team’s camp after making an impressive debut for his English club Saracens last weekend.

“He’s a very important player and he’s fit to play,” said Howells.

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov in Sofia; Editing by Ossian Shine)

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