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Spain won't be in Ireland's World Cup pool next year after appeal rejected

This final and binding decision is a huge setback for Spanish rugby.

Spain in action during a recent clash with the Classic All Blacks.
Spain in action during a recent clash with the Classic All Blacks.
Image: Alberto Gardin

SPAIN’S APPEAL TO have their place at next year’s World Cup reinstated has been rejected.

Los Leones had qualified into Pool B of the World Cup alongside Ireland, Scotland, and South Africa thanks to their performances in the Rugby Europe Championship [REC] over the past two years.

However, they were disqualified in April when an independent judicial committee found that Spain fielded an ineligible player during their qualifying campaign.

Romania, who had been pipped to the World Cup spot by Spain, brought a case to World Rugby questioning whether South Africa-born Gavin van den Berg had been eligible to appear for Spain in two REC games against the Netherlands.

The committee decided that van den Berg had not served the three years of residency required to become Spain-eligible under World Rugby rules.

The sanction against Spain was a fine and a 10-point deduction in the REC, ensuring they lose their place at the World Cup, with Romania qualifying instead and Portugal going into the final repechage qualifying tournament.

The Spanish rugby union launched an appeal against the independent committee’s decision and while there had been a delay on the decision in recent days, World Rugby has now confirmed that the appeal has been unsuccessful.

World Rugby says that the Spanish union needed to prove to a new independent appeal committee that “a) the decision of the Independent Judicial Committee was in error; b) in the interests of justice that the decision should be overturned and/or c) that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle.”

Spain attempted to introduce new evidence that had not been put before the initial indendent committee but the hearing committee decided not to admit that evidence because:

“1. it determined that the Spanish Union had not adequately explained why this evidence was unavailable on reasonable enquiry ahead of the original hearing; and

2. in any event it would not be in the interests of justice to do so after having regard for all of the circumstances, including consideration that part of the new evidence presented was not only incomplete, but contained allegations against the player and others relating to the alteration of a photocopy of a national identity document that was subject to ongoing investigations by the appropriate competent bodies in the Spanish jurisdiction.”

In short, the Spanish appeal was dismissed.

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This decision by the independent appeal committee is final and binding, with Spain having no further right to appeal.

It’s a huge setback for Spanish rugby. This is the second World Cup in a row in which they have been denied their place due to fielding ineligible players during the qualifying campaign.

Romania will take their place in Pool B and face Ireland, although reports in the Spanish media have suggested that the Romanians also fielded an ineligible player during the REC.

However, World Rugby confirmed today that “Romania qualifies as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain, and Portugal replaces Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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