Aid for a stricken nation

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The Independent Online

Delighted to see that the Rugby Football Union are offering help to stricken Romania. Two members of the England coaching team, Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton, are to visit Bucharest to work with the national squad before they play England at Twickenham in November. They also have games against Combined Services and a students' team.

Their painful 81-9 defeat by Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday took them to a new low. Thirteen years previously they had been celebrating in the same city when they beat Wales to become the first emerging nation to win a full international against one of the home unions.

Ironically, the downfall of Communism took away their state funding. That and the arrival of professionalism shattered their progress. Since beating Wales they have lost 50 per cent of their players, and since they can't afford to pay wages, anyone of promise is enticed away to France or Italy.

Their president, Dumitru Mihalache, is a determined man who numbers among his accomplishments a voice like Bryn Terfel. One of the men helping him in his difficult task is Octavian Morariu, who was the first Romanian to play for the Barbarians. Morariu defected after Romania played in France in the late Eighties and is now a successful engineer in Paris. He has volunteered to raise the sponsorship they desperately need.

The Romanians trained at my local club, Penarth RFC, for five days before last Wednesday's game and invited some of us to join them at the Millennium Stadium as part of their official party. As honorary Romanians we shared their misery and commiserated with them into the early hours. It was the least we could do, and they were so moved they went to bed and left us to it.