Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson, Neil Jenkins, Ronan O’Gara, Owen Farrell, Diego Dominguez and now, Florin Vlaicu.

Last weekend, the veteran Romanian fly-half/centre became the seventh player to score 1,000 test points, and the first from an emerging nation to achieve the remarkable milestone, when he slotted his first kick at goal in the Oaks’ 28-27 win against Portugal in Lisbon.

Now he needs just four points to overtake Italy’s Diego Dominguez and move higher up the list.

“It is very nice to have my name there, with the big guys. I feel good about it and I just want to keep going up, and maybe I’ll go above Diego Dominguez into sixth,” he said, speaking to World Rugby from Bucharest.

“It is good that it has happened because I’ve been waiting since last year when unfortunately we didn’t play many games.”

Nerves, no matter what

What makes Vlaicu’s achievement all the more remarkable is that he is entirely self-taught as a kicker, and admits he isn’t immune to pressure.

“I am always nervous when I am kicking goals, before every kick, even if I play a good team or a poor team,” revealed ‘the Jonny Wilkinson’ of eastern European rugby.

“I have never spoken to anyone (about kicking), I practice a lot and try to develop my kicking and to teach the young boys to follow me.

“For the last six/seven years my kicking has been good.”

Already Romania’s record points scorer (1,007 points) and most-capped player (126 caps), Vlaicu is still in contention to make a fourth Rugby World Cup.

The Bucharest-born player will be 37 by the time France 2023 comes around, but he’ll still be a year younger than Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, who is showing no signs of letting up, if the pair of prolific points-scorers both appear in France.

World Cup is ‘mission possible’

First of all, Romania need to get there. Failure to qualify for the tournament in Japan was a bitter blow to all concerned and the journey to France 2023 got off to a false start with defeat to Russia in round one of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021.

“For Romanian rugby and for me, it was a disappointment (not to play at RWC 2019) but we can’t do anything about it now, we just have to think about the next tournament. Japan is over.

“To play at another World Cup is not impossible, but I just want to enjoy my rugby for now, and take it step by step. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the future. It’s a long way away.

“It is hard to keep pace with the young guys when you are in your 30s but I feel good, for now, and I want to keep going this year, and maybe next year, I don’t know.”

“Spain will be tough”

Up until Japan 2019, Romania had appeared in every Rugby World Cup. Missing a second is something they do not want to countenance.

Snatching a win from the jaws of defeat against Portugal has got them back on track, and a further victory against the higher-ranked Spain this weekend would be a statement result for a team looking to bounce back from a difficult couple of years.

“We have a young team and we hadn’t played for a long time so that’s why we’ve had these results – the defeat against Russia and beating Portugal in the last phase. But now we are at home and we want to get a win against Spain.

“We know it will be tough because we saw Spain’s game against Georgia and they did well. It is always a tough game against Spain, home or away.

“I hope we can win every game and go there because the World Cup is something else, for any rugby player.”

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