World Rugby hand down points deductions for Romania, Belgium and Spain after all three are adjudged to have fielded ineligible players. Russia join Pool A
Russia qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 in place of Romania
Russia will replace Romania in Pool A of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, after an independent disputes committee’s review into circumstances surrounding the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championship, handed down points deductions for fielding ineligible players.
Romania, Belgium and Spain all felt the committee’s sting – a five point deduction – after it was concluded that all three teams had selected players who did not qualify for them during their campaigns. The three unions have also all been handy hefty fines.
The qualification process had already sparked outrage after Spain’s controversial loss to Belgium in the final round of the Championship. The loss was overseen by Romanian officials, and after the result – which initially handed Romania a spot in the World Cup – the post-match scenes turned ugly and the referee had to be escorted from the field.
Related: Five Spain players banned for confronting referee
Amidst calls for a review, several complaints then surfaced over potential eligibility breaches by a number of participating unions. An independent review was set in motion and they have today settled on a decision.
The points deduction set forth in today’s ruling means that as well as Russia going into a World Cup pool alongside tournament hosts Japan, Ireland and Scotland, it also means that Spain will no longer take part in a play-off match with Portugal. Instead, Germany will play Portugal for the right to face Samoa. The winner of that tie will go into World Cup Pool A alongside Russia. The loser of that clash will go into the final repechage competition for the chance to qualify for the World Cup.
Related: What are rugby’s eligibility rules?
On the matter of the match between Spain and Belgium, World Rugby did state that: “the way in which Rugby Europe dealt with Spain’s request for a change of match officials (in the build-up to the match) was not adequate.” However, they have declined to overturn he result.
A 14-day appeal window is now open for those involved to appeal. Romania have exercised their option to challenge the ruling, stating: “The Romanian Rugby Federation cannot accept a decision in which teams that knowingly violate or ignore the regulations are treated identically to those who comply with all procedural steps required.”