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New flyhalves for Pumas, Romania at Invercargill

Updated: September 16, 2011, 00:37


INVERCARGILL, New Zealand(AP) Argentina and Romania will start their second matches at the Rugby World Cup with new flyhalves, an important commodity at an exposed Rugby Park Stadium known for its tricky and shifting winds.

Santiago Fernandez will start at No. 10 for the Pumas to replace captain Felipe Contepomi, who injured ribs and had to leave the field in Argentina's 13-9 opening Pool B loss to England. No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe will lead the Pumas, who were surprise semifinalists in 2007 in should go into the match as favorite.

Tiberius Dimofte will start as playmaker for Romania at the expense of Marin Dumbrava, who missed two kicks at goal in the first half of the 34-24 loss to Scotland at the same venue.

There was no letup in the frigid weather Friday during the teams' captain's run, and the forecast was for much of the same for the afternoon match Saturday. A storm featuring large hail hit the stadium in between the teams' training runs, and the expected low temperature for Saturday was near 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

But Invercargill's ever-changing weather saw the sun shining for the Romanian team run two hours later. Gontineac gave the thumbs up as he checked out the footing on the stadium turf. Dimofte practiced kick after kick in the blustery conditions. And center Ionel Cazan and flanker Ovidiu Tonita were two of only three players to take to the field without their warmup suits, electing to brave the chilly weather at the open practice in their short-sleeved uniform tops.

Romania coach Romeo Gontineac said that, as like anywhere, there's not much they can do about the elements.

"The weather can change the game, for sure, but that's what we can't control - the wind, rain, snowing, we don't know,'' he said Friday.

He said his side will go into the match with plenty of confidence after its close 34-24 loss to Scotland, a match which Romania led by three points with 10 minutes to go.

"We worked a lot in the last week on the positive points, the atmosphere is very good,'' Gontineac said. "The guys are very proud of what they did against Scotland, and I am sure we will have a great game.''

Argentina had a late injury-enforced change after its run - forward Julio Farias Cabello has a hamstring strain and will be replaced by Alejandro Campos off the reserves bench. Genaro Fessia has come into the reserves.

Fernandez Lobbe said Contepomi will be missed Saturday.

"He's our star, the leader and the captain who can make a difference,'' Fernandez Lobbe said. "But we believe we have a strong squad and can make it.''

Argentina assistant coach Fabian Turnes had good news on Contepomi on Friday.

"He's getting better, we hope he will be better and available for next weekend (against Scotland),'' Turnes said.

The team is also missing center Gonzalo Tiesi, who has been ruled out of the World Cup due to a knee ligament injury.

Argentina and Romania need a victory if they are to progress out of Pool B and into the quarterfinals. Scotland leads the group with two wins and England will try to join the Scots when it plays Georgia on Sunday.

An upset win by Romania would make the pool qualifying decidedly cloudy. A third-place finish for Romania in the pool, as well, means it wouldn't have to go through qualifying for the next World Cup in 2015.

History is against Romania - Argentina has won all seven head-to-heads, including a 50-3 win in 2003 in their only World Cup meeting.

Fernandez Lobbe said his side was treating Romania with plenty of respect.

"They have a really good pack and a good defense,'' he said. "We'll have the same approach - a great defense, keep our tackling low, and try to stop them at lineouts and rolling mauls.''

Gontineac earlier described Argentina as a "pretty complex team.''

"They have strong forwards as well as really good backs, they're capable of being dynamic,'' he said. "When they play, they move a lot, especially their forwards.''

Cristian Petre and Ovidiu Tonita are set to play in their 10th Rugby World Cup matches, joining only three other Romanians to reach double figures. Gontineac holds the record with 14.

Hooker Mario Ledesma is set to go one better than Gontineac - setting a record for World Cup matches for Argentina, playing his 15th. He currently shares the record with Agustin Pichot and Contepomi.

Ledesma said he expects it to be a tough match, and again when the Pumas play Pool B opponents Scotland and Georgia later in the tournament.

"We have learned that there are no easy games,'' Ledesma said Friday. "Georgia have grown a lot in the past few years and Scotland took their second game more seriously than the first one.''

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Argentina: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Martin Rodriguez, Horacio Agulla, Santiago Fernandez, Nicolas Vergallo; Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Alejandro Campos, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Mario Ledesma, Rodrigo Roncero. Reserves: Agustin Creevy, Martin Scelzo, Mariano Galarza, Genaro Fessia, Alfredo Lalanne, Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Jose Imhoff.

Romania: Iulian Dumitras, Madalin Lemnaru, Csaba Gal, Constantin Gheara, Ionel Cazan, Tiberius Dimofte, Florin Surugiu; Daniel Carpo, Ovidiu Tonita, Mihai Macovei, Cristian Petre, Valentin Ursache, Paulica Ion, Marius Tincu (captain), Mihaita Lazar. Reserves: Bogdan Suman, Silviu Florea, Valentin Poparlan, Daniel Ianus, Valentin Calafeteanu, Marin Dumbrava, Florin Vlaicu.

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Follow Dennis Passa on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DennisPassa

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