Quercus in the Rugby World Cup

 

Some members may have followed the Rugby World Cup that was held in England during September and October (indeed a couple of key quarter-final matches coincided with the first day of the Conference in Chicago). It was a thrilling contest, with New Zealand winning the tournament and Southern Hemisphere dominating Northern counterparts: the other semi-finalists were Australia, South Africa and Argentina. So what possible connection could there be with oaks? A parallel between the shape of the ball and that of Quercus ellipsoidalis acorns? Maybe, but there is a connection that I was not aware of and it came to my attention when I saw the logo of the Romanian Rugby team: it features an oak leaf drawn within the elliptic outline of a rugby ball. Many national rugby teams bear a nickname, often suggesting some quality that may be desirable in a rugby squad or that may intimidate their opponents: South Africa are the Springboks (an antelope); Australia, the Wallabies (a type of kangaroo); United States, the Eagles; Argentina, the Pumas (a mountain lion); Uruguay, the Teros (a lapwing, a small bird—not exactly the stuff to chill your blood, but known to be remarkably aggressive when protecting its young). Others are known for a symbol that represents their country, not necessarily designed to make their adversaries quake in their rugby boots: the Rose (England), the Thistle (Scotland), the Cherry Blossom (Japan). Romania has taken a middle road, choosing a symbol that represents their country and also evokes strength and solidity in defense that may be desirable on a rugby pitch. They are known as the Oaks, or, in Romanian, "Stejarii" (a word of uncertain origin but that may share a root with the English word “stock”, in its archaic sense of "tree stump" or "log"). The Oaks have not shown the best form lately, and they finished bottom of their pool in the World Cup, though they did score a remarkable victory against Canada, coming back from 15-0 down to win 17-15 (you can watch the Oaks’ best moments in the World Cup here). And they have an illustrious past, including a bronze medal in the 1924 Olympics. So if you don't as yet have a favorite team, as an oak enthusiast you know who to support in the 2019 World Cup in Japan.