ON paper, it looked a dour match between two sporting minnows.
But Fred McCullough believes the 2003 Rugby World Cup match between Romania and Namibia changed the way the sport was seen in Tasmania.
Ten years ago this week Romanian centre Romeo Gontineac led The Oaks out against Sean Furter's Namibian Welwitschias in front of a 16,000-strong crowd at York Park.
The Romanians won the dead-rubber Pool A clash 37-7 in a match that was devoid of any great skill.
But the result did not sully the legacy that the two nations left on Tasmanian rugby.
Mr McCullough, of Glengarry, was the local liaison officer for the Romanian team during its 10-day stay in Launceston in October 2003.
Mr McCullough, who hails from Northern Ireland, was a player and coach with the Glen Dhu Rugby Club, leading the team to a premiership in 1979.
The 67-year-old said he jumped at the chance to be part of the world cup "rather then just sit back and watch".
"We were very lucky to get the match here in Launceston," he said.
"The tournament was originally going to be co- hosted by New Zealand, but when that didn't work out, I think we were offered the game.
"It was perfect timing with the upgrades to York Park - it was just before they renamed it Aurora Stadium."
Mr McCullough helped the 30-strong Romanian squad navigate Launceston, co-ordinating various sight-seeing tours and social events.
He said the players were quiet and polite, with a good grasp of English.
They also enjoyed letting their hair down when they got the chance.
"I remember one trip to the zoo, the players got on the dune buggies for a tour of the bush," he said.
"We were meant to go slow and steady, but being young men, they started racing each other.
"I ended up getting back into the hire car with five huge blokes covered head to toe in mud."
The Romanian team used Mr McCullough's old playing ground, now the Launceston Rugby Club, as its training venue in the lead-up to the big match.
"The club benefited greatly from that - I think they inherited all the Romanian team's training equipment."
There has been no international rugby played in Tasmania since 2003, but the code has remained strong thanks to the 10-team statewide domestic competition, as well as a couple of exhibition matches.
In February, preseason Super 15 Rugby match saw the Melbourne Rebels take on the New South Wales Waratahs in Hobart, while the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos rugby league sides also faced off in 2012 to raucous support.
Mr McCullough said there was enough support to justify more top-level matches being played in Tasmania, especially in the North of the state.
"Rugby will never dominate like AFL or soccer does here in Tassie," he said.
"But there is a following, and we can trace it back to Romania and Namibia.
"People came from the length and breadth of Tassie to watch that game - it put rugby on the map."
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