Romanian wing Catalin Fercu has been replaced in his country’s World Cup squad after his fear of flying preventing him from travelling to New Zealand.
Fercu, who has 51 Test caps and played in three games at the 2007 World Cup, was withdrawn from the squad at the last minute after refusing to embark on the 40-hour journey to New Zealand.
Adrian Apostol has been called in as a replacement.
“After many discussions with Catalin, he told us he cannot pass the fear of flying so many hours,” said Alin Petrache, head of the Romanian Rugby Federation.
“We tried to convince him but we didn’t succeed. We are very disappointed about Fercu’s decision, because he was one of our best players, and he proved that in the last two preparation games in Ukraine and France.”
In an interview with the Evenimentul Zilei newspaper, Fercu said he had raised the issue with coach Romeo Gontineac, but claims he was ignored.
“It is an old problem and I cannot get over it,” he said. “After the last flight I made, I swore I would never get on a plane again.
“I said this earlier, at the start of training, telling the federation leaders and the coach Romeo Gontineac, but perhaps I was not taken seriously.
“I will consider playing for the national team again, but only if I can travel by road. The games in Europe I do not think would be such a problem because the distances are not so great.”
Romania open their World Cup campaign on September 10, against Scotland in Invercargill.