Teams from two countries barred from international and cross-border club competitions

World Rugby suspends Russia and Belarus

Russian teams have been barred from playing in international or cross-border club competitions by World Rugby.

The sport’s governing body has also imposed the same suspension on Belarus following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.

The Rugby Union of Russia has also been suspended from World Rugby membership (the Belarus union is not a member).

Related: Meet the Belarus rugby captain fighting for democracy

A World Rugby statement read: “World Rugby reiterates its condemnation of Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine and the facilitation of this action by Belarus. The global rugby family is united in standing in solidarity with everyone affected by these deeply disturbing events and joins the global community in calling for the restoration of peace.

“The World Rugby Executive Committee has today decided to take immediate additional steps to protect the rugby family and take a strong stance against the conflict in line with recommendations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC):

  • The full and immediate suspension of Russia and Belarus from all international rugby and cross-border club rugby activities until further notice
  • The full and immediate suspension of the Rugby Union of Russia from World Rugby membership until further notice

“The decision has been taken with the interests of rugby’s values of solidarity, integrity and respect at heart. World Rugby also remains in contact with colleagues at the Ukraine Rugby Federation and has pledged its full support to the rugby community in the country.”

Russia played in both the 2011 and 2019 men’s Rugby World Cups, while their men’s and women’s teams compete regularly on the sevens circuit.

The women’s 15-a-side team lost 27-0 to Spain in the Rugby Europe Championship (REC) on Saturday but their men’s fixture due to take place against Georgia last weekend was postponed due to events in Ukraine.

It is not yet clear what this will mean for the remaining European RWC 2023 qualifying matches. Results from the 2021 and 2022 REC men’s tournaments are combined to determine the two automatic European qualifiers while the team that comes third in the table moves into the repechage.

Russia lost to both Spain and Romania in this season’s REC and looked out of the running in the qualification race, but they do have outstanding fixtures against Georgia, Netherlands and Portugal.

While the Netherlands are unable to qualify for RWC 2023 having not won a game either this year or last, Georgia and Portugal are in the mix and match points from their Russia fixtures could prove important.

It could be that Rugby Europe and World Rugby decide to award a set result for these matches that cannot now be played, as we have seen with Covid cancellations.

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