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Former France player Thomas Lievremont to coach Romania

© AFP/File | Thomas Lievremont, who captained Biarritz in a European Cup final, now faces the challenge of rebuilding the scandal-hit Romanian rugby team

BUCHAREST (AFP) - 

Former French rugby international Thomas Lievremont is taking over as head coach of crisis-hit Romania, the country's rugby federation said on Wednesday.

"My objective is to improve Romanian rugby," said Lievremont, 44, during a press conference alongside Alin Petrache, head of Romania's Rugby Federation.

Romania will miss the 2019 World Cup in Japan following a scandal in their European qualifying group.

"I want to bring back the smile of all those who love rugby in this country," Lievremont said. "We cannot forget what happened, but we have to focus on the future and on the World Cup in 2023."

As a player, Lievremont won the French national championship three times with Biarritz (2002, 2005 and 2006) and captained the club in the 2006 European Cup final. He was part of the French team that finished runner up in the 1999 World Cup, going on to win 37 caps for Les Bleus.

He is the younger brother of Marc Lievremont, who coached France from 2007 to 2011.

Lievremont will face the fallout from the recent scandal in his first match in charge against Portugal on November 10 in the Rugby Europe Championship, the top division below the Six Nations. Despite three wins in their first five games, points deductions have left Romania last in the six-team division and needing a victory to stand any chance of avoiding relegation.

© 2018 AFP