Russian Federation take Romania's place in Ireland's Rugby World Cup pool after investigation

Posted May 16, 2018

Russian Federation will join Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the play-off victor in Pool A of the 2019 Rugby World Cup after the independent disputes committee appointed by World Rugby docked Belgium, Romania and Spain points for fielding ineligible players during the controversial Rugby Europe competition.

Initially, the investigation was to cover whether Spain vs Belgium should be replayed, after the Spaniards claimed that their defeat was unduly influenced by the Romanian referee, as Romania automatically qualified ahead of Spain due to the result.

But in a statement released on Tuesday, World Rugby confirmed that both Romania and Spain had broken eligibility rules, resulting in a points penalty for both countries.

The winners of that go into a Europe/Oceania play-off against Samoa for the chance to complete Pool A at next year's global showpiece.

"While the independent disputes committee has determined that mistakes were not made in bad faith by Rugby Europe and some participating unions, World Rugby is extremely disappointed with the unfortunate and avoidable events", a World Rugby statement said.

There is a 14-day window for appeals by all parties.

The investigation was preceded by a match where Spain played Romania where if Spain lost - Romania - who were then in second place in the table behind Georgia - would qualify. The victor will then face Samoa for a place in the World Cup.

Romania had only one ineligible player, Sione Faka'osilea, who previously played for Tonga Sevens. The committee found that five players, who between them had played in six matches that counted towards qualification, were ineligible because neither they, nor their parents or grandparents had been born in Belgium. "We have imposed financial sanctions which are to be suspended for five years". Romania were docked 100,000 pounds while Spain were hit for 50,000 pounds.

The delay in making a final decision had been criticised by Samoa as it left the Pacific nation without competition in June, while the playoff will now fall outside of the recognised global window.

"In addition, World Rugby has already formally reminded all unions and regional associations of their obligations regarding Regulation 8 and will reiterate at the Annual Meeting of Council this week, while World Rugby will also oversee match official appointments at all stages of future Rugby World Cup qualifiers".

"However, the invitation to overturn a result because of the "appearance of bias" or because of the unsatisfactory way that Rugby Europe dealt with the proper request made by Spain to remove the match officials, is in our judgment not sufficient".