It took until 2015 for the first player outside the Six Nations or Rugby Championship to reach 100 caps for their country, but ever since Vasco Uva brought up three figures for Portugal against Kenya, the centurions have come thick and fast including his brother, Goncalo.

A fortnight ago in Bucharest, Romania’s hard-carrying loose forward, Mihai Macovei became the latest member of this now not-so-exclusive club, and the fifth Romanian to achieve the feat behind Florin Vlaicu (129 caps), Catalin Fercu (109), Valentin Calafeteanu and Florin Surugiu (both 100), the latter having reached his personal milestone only a week earlier.

Macovei, 36, started his journey at the same time as Vlaicu, in a 58-0 win against Ukraine in June 2006. But Vlaicu, the goal-kicking centre/fly-half, got to the magical 100-cap mark first, in March 2017.

As with Surugiu, the Romanian Rugby Federation marked the occasion of Macovei’s 100th cap with a post-match presentation, the two-time Rugby World Cup participant receiving the applause of fans, team-mates and opponents at the Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf as fireworks went off around him.

Messages of congratulations also came in from all over the rugby world, with World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont one of those paying tribute to the battle-hardened forward.

“Congratulations on winning your 100th cap, an outstanding achievement, but also 68 as captain,” Beaumont said.

As for Macovei, the record is immaterial in that he has the same sense of pride in pulling on the jersey now as he did when making his debut 16 years ago.

“If you have one cap or 100 caps it is the same feeling. It is always important when you play for your country,” he said.

“I started with Vlaicu, our debuts were the same match. I was young and when you are young, you have a lot of emotion.

“Vlaicu and Fercu are the same age as me and Calafeteanu is one year older. We are all close together in age, so I think you could call it ‘the golden generation’.”

Macovei and Surugiu are the only two Romanian centurions still playing test rugby, but breaking Vlaicu’s record number of appearances will take some doing.

However, Macovei is set on making it to a third Rugby World Cup next year, having appeared in 2011 and 2015.

Should he get there, Macovei won’t have to travel far because he plays his club rugby in France with Arcachon in the Bay of Biscay, just half an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, where Romania will play their first two games at Rugby World Cup 2023, against South Africa and Ireland.

Comeback hero

Whatever happens in terms of selection, Macovei will always have his place in men’s Rugby World Cup history – as the inspiration behind the biggest comeback in the tournament’s history.

At Rugby World Cup 2015, he led from the front and scored the two second-half tries that helped the Oaks recover from a 15-0 deficit against Canada and win 17-15.

Recalling that momentous occasion in Leicester, he said: “We didn’t play so well in the first half and there were words in the changing room at half-time about how we needed to improve. The camaraderie we had as a squad helped us.”

In addition to the two matches in Bordeaux at Rugby World Cup 2023, Romania face Scotland and Tonga in Lille, the latter fixture being one they will no doubt target as the most winnable.

However, Macovei knows they will have to improve on their performances in November if they are to pick up their first Rugby World Cup win since that comeback in Leicester.

Romania opened the test window with a 30-23 win over Rugby World Cup debutants Chile but then lost 21-16 to Uruguay and 22-0 to Samoa.

“It was disappointing against Uruguay because we lost in the last action of the game and against Samoa, we knew it would be a tough game,” he said.

“In the first 20 minutes, we lost the ball and conceded an easy turnover try and then we conceded two more tries and it was hard to come back from that. There weren’t any points in the second half. I think we need to work more on our attack.”

While all the current test centurions come from Europe, Uruguayan forward Diego Magno is on the verge of becoming the first representative from the Americas.

Magno has played in 91 tests, three as captain, and could bring up his century at Rugby World Cup 2023 depending on Los Teros’ pre-tournament schedule and how far they progress in France.

Emerging nations centurions:

Florin Vlaicu (129)
Catalin Fercu (109)
Valentin Calafeteanu (100)
Mihai Macovei (100)
Florin Surugiu (100)

David Kacharava (122)
Merab Kvirikashvili (115)
Alexander Todua (102)
Giorgi Chkhaidze (100)

Yury Kushnarev (120)
Viktor Gresev (107)
Andrey Garbuzov (100)   

Vasco Uva (100)
Goncalo Uva (100)