Let’s Talk About Rugby
Interview With ACS Tomitanii Constanța Players
Rugby never stops, and neither do we! As our expedition continues, we have explored in more depth the nuances of sports in Europe, this time heading East. Recently, we had the chance to discuss with players from ACS Tomitanii Constanța — a professional Romanian rugby club. They started playing within the 2018–2019 edition, in the CEC Bank SuperLiga, the first division of Romanian club rugby.
We shall start with introducing Adrian Ion (right) — the captain of the Romanian National Rugby Team and ACS Tomitanii Constanța. Next up are Ngoni Chibuwe (middle) — World Cup Sevens player, originally from Zimbabwe; and Ionuț Coman (left) — ambitious Romanian athlete, actively engaged into the development of rugby within his native country.
Let’s explore rugby through their experiences!
Q: How did they discover rugby?
A: Adrian took after his father, Gheorghe Ion — renowned, international player, nicknamed ‘Tarzan’, one of the legends of Romanian rugby. Ngoni has always been a sports enthusiast, having attended a rugby game one day, when he decided that this was the sport he wanted to pursue. Interestingly, Ionuț, among his classmates, was the only one who hasn’t been initially considered for the rugby team, due to his slimmer figure — “Instead of discouraging me, it ambitioned me! Eventually, I was the only one from my class who went on to the ‘Sports High School’ and was selected later on for a professional team”.
Whether continuing a family legacy, being in the right place, at the right time, or taking on a challenge, brought us all here today, reminding us that we shall pursue our interests, even when the odds are against us — we might be in for a surprise!
Q: How do they prepare for games?
A: Within the pre-season time-frame, before the beginning of the championship training is very intense, with a main emphasis on strength. Training is done twice a day, every day (Mon — Fri), but during this period, even more sessions are needed. Following strength practice, the focus falls on technique. Lastly, on the game week, training less is better, so as not to overwork the system, which could lead to underperforming — Adrian tells us. Ionuț follows a strict, consistent schedule before games, which helps him achieve his best potential, while Ngoni mentioned drinking plenty of water, prioritising carbs, and importantly, getting eight hours of sleep on the night before a match.
Q: How do they feel before their games?
Adrian: “I am still nervous, even after all this time. Being the captain is a great responsibility — bringing everyone together in and out of the field, for better or for worse. Once I start playing however, I regain my composure and stay focused, while enjoying the game”
Ngoni: “I feel a mix of emotions, a need to fulfil my goals, a desire to do my best. All these bring back memories of my journey in rugby. I thank God for each opportunity and play for the glory of God.”
Ionuț: “There is a mix of unique feelings, incomparable to any others. I’m scared, yet excited — it is like I am doing something for the first time, I don’t know what to expect, yet I give all I’ve got — it’s the feeling I love the most.”
Q: How has rugby impacted their daily lives?
Adrian: “There is a common saying that ‘rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen’ — I think that it does apply to me, as I learnt how to respect and enjoy time with competitors regardless of the sometimes rough interactions on the field. Above all, rugby kept me away from potential vicious circles growing up, having chosen to follow a healthier, more ethical path.”
Ngoni: “I learnt how to adequately plan my day, set and pursue goals, never quit, and became very disciplined.”
Ionuț: “It has taught me about solidarity, group thinking, teamwork, how to adapt and understand society. Most importantly, it has motivated me to prioritise my health.”
Q: What are their main goals as rugby players?
Adrian: “I would like to play in the 2023 World Cup, after which I am planning to retire” — his career reaching 26 years this year.
Ngoni: “My aim is to play for my native country, Zimbabwe, in the 2023 World Cup.”
Ionuț: “I work towards reaching the highest level in my country — for now.”
Q: An overview of Romanian rugby?
A: “Romania used to have a flourishing rugby culture, keeping up with powerful countries. Unfortunately, while they kept progressing, we stagnated and started regressing — thus, we no longer hold a renowned name in the rugby world” — highlights Adrian. There are only six teams left at the top which are not enough to create a competitive scene, and hence growth in a rather big country like Romania. Rugby is rarely played in schools, while the lack of professional leagues is not attracting sponsors, creating difficulties for local players. There is a lot of real talent, nevertheless, a lack of opportunities for development compared to 1992–2000, when Romania held a great name internationally — add Ionuț and Ngoni.
Q: Next, we have asked for a few development suggestions. Their answers:
A: In Spain, for example, a lot of rugby is being played, especially among young people, creating a ‘healthy-, quality-focused’ development, alike South Africa, most recent World Cup winners, where many under eight year olds take on the sport. This provides a great opportunity for the younger generations to learn from the elders, professional league players, whilst adopting a sense of competitiveness and drive towards greater achievements. Thus, a potential measure that could be taken would be to invest more into youth rugby teams, beginning to introduce the sport into schools and universities, which would create a culture and education about the sport into one’s country.
Q: Considering its most recent achievements, what is your perception of rugby in Japan?
A: “Japan has advanced greatly in sports generally, alongside rugby. During the Handball Championship, they have beaten our team, which was considered more likely to win at the time. Even more in rugby, they are still growing, having large, engaged audiences, and a considerable budget, which draws attention and many talents — both young, as well as already well-known athletes. As players are really well payed, many stars choose to play for Japan before retiring” — Adrian points out.
Until recently, Japan was not recognised as having the potential to reach the level of performance it has achieved last year. Potentially, aspects like their initiative, organised, tactical nature, and increased investments might have fuelled their progress — state Ionuț and Ngoni. “Give it five years and they could potentially make it in the top three worldwide” — Ngoni continues.
Q: Lastly, we gathered few questions that our interviewees wanted to address, about rugby in Japan.
Adrian: “I heard that while coached by Eddie Jones, the national team’s first training session took place at 5 A.M. — I am curious whether this is indeed true? Also, since rugby is developing so much — I would like to know what is ‘their secret’, besides, surely, their professional and loyal attitude.”
Ngoni: “I am curious whether rugby is compulsory in schools, and how they managed to become so good all of a sudden — what kind of techniques they have; what is their know-how?”
Ionuț: “Do they follow a diet? If so, what does it consist of, on a weekly basis?”
After our interview, we have dived even further into the local rugby culture, by joining our team to the canteen — where meals prepared specially for their needs as athletes are being prepared. During our feast, there was a dynamic, family-like atmosphere, of genuine care, trust, and support, seasoned with jokes and a talkative spirit. This has indeed demonstrated the “brotherhood” and “team spirit” that are so praised in rugby.
Thank you for your time and attention! Stay tuned and join us on our next journey across Europe! What’s it going to be next?