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Romanian legend Morariu receives Vernon Pugh Award

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irb.com and James Mortimer     14 Dec 2012     Getty Images

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset and FIRA-AER President Jean-Claude Baqué, himself a recipient of the Award in 2010, presented Morariu with the Award in Bucharest on Thursday.

A former captain of Romania, Morariu went on to coach and manage the national team, before serving in a number of high-profile administrative roles.

The 81-year-old is regarded as the most influential Romanian Rugby player of his generation.

A railway engineer by trade, the all-action flanker played 45 times for his country between 1950 and 1964, of which 22 were Tests. Only once did Romania lose under his leadership in 14 matches.

During that period, Romania stayed unbeaten for four years in their annual encounter with France, enjoying two wins in Bucharest and two draws in France. The 11-5 victory over France in 1960 was a watershed moment in Romanian Rugby history as it was the first time they had beaten a major Rugby power.

Morariu also featured strongly for a Bucharest Select XV – effectively the national side – on pioneering tours of England and Wales in 1955 and 1956, scoring tries against Swansea, Harlequins and Gloucester.

He retired from international Rugby in 1964, the year that he helped take Romanian club rugby to new heights.

A long-time servant of his one and only club, Locomotive Grivita Rosie RC (later Grivita Rosie RC and Grivita RC), as a player and coach Morariu won 10 National Championships and four Romanian Cups and, to cap it all, he became a European Champions Cup winner after his side beat Stade Montois (Mont-de-Marsan) in the final of the competition that served as a forerunner to the modern day Heineken Cup.

His influence on the Game continued long after his player days came to an end.

Mentored by the legendary Grivita RC coach Gheorghe ‘Gica’ Parcalabescu, Morariu was well-equipped to match his playing success as a coach. He won exactly half of his 10 matches in charge of the Oaks from 1965 to 1967.

In 1977, he became manager of the national team and took Romania on their pioneering tours of England and Wales in 1978, Wales in 1979, Ireland and England in 1980, Scotland in 1981, England in 1984-85 and New Zealand in 1991.

Morariu undertook a number of different roles as a high-ranking official. He served as Vice President of the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR) from 1973 until 1987, when the Communist authorities removed him from office, and then as President between 1990 and 1998. He remains FRR Honorary President to this day.

He was also elected as Vice President of FIRA-AER in 1990, a position he held for 14 years, before becoming Honorary Vice President.

As an IRB Council Member between 1995 and 1999, Morariu continued to assist the development of the Game in the FIRA-AER nations.

His outstanding Rugby knowledge was called upon at two Rugby World Cups, firstly as Chairman of the Appeal Committee at RWC 1995 and then as Match Commissioner four years later.

Morariu’s passion for the sport clearly rubbed off on his son Octavian, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an international back row and past President of the FRR. Octavian is currently President of the Romanian Olympic Committee.

Former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs was honoured with the award last year.

Previous winners:

2011 - Jock Hobbs
2010 - Jean-Claude Baqué
2009 - Noel Murphy
2008 - Sir Nicholas Shehadie
2007 - Jose Epalza
2006 - Brian Lochore
2005 - Peter Crittle
2004 - Ronnie Dawson