Spain lose appeal against 2023 Rugby World Cup disqualification

·2 min read
World Cup Qualification - Spain v Portugal - National Stadium Complutense University, Madrid, Spain - March 13, 2022 Spain players and staff celebrate after winning the game and qualifying for the Rugby World Cup - Spain lose appeal against 2023 Rugby World Cup disqualification - REUTERS
World Cup Qualification - Spain v Portugal - National Stadium Complutense University, Madrid, Spain - March 13, 2022 Spain players and staff celebrate after winning the game and qualifying for the Rugby World Cup - Spain lose appeal against 2023 Rugby World Cup disqualification - REUTERS

Spain will not be going to the 2023 World Cup after failing in their bid to overturn their disqualification due to a breach in player eligibility laws.

World Rugby announced on Monday that an independent appeal committee had upheld the decision to deduct points from Spain after they fielded Gavin van den Berg in two qualification matches between 2021 and 2022.

Van den Berg, a South African prop, had not served the sufficient residency period prior to coming off the bench against the Netherlands last December and then again against the same opponents the following February.

It was found that a copy of his passport had been tampered with to make it look as though he had been in Spain, rather than South Africa, for longer over his residency period.

Those transgressions caused Spain to be deducted 10 points, enough for them to sink below Romania and Portugal into fourth position in the qualification table, which is taken from the combined results of the Rugby Europe Championship across two seasons.

In a statement released on behalf of the independent appeal committee, it was outlined that Spain’s appeal sought to introduce new evidence that had not been heard at the initial hearing. However, it was not adequately explained why the evidence was unavailable at the time.

It was also deemed that “it would not be in the interests of justice” to consider any new information, partly because it included “allegations against the player and others relating to the alteration of a photocopy of a national identity document that was subject to ongoing investigations”.

World Rugby’s written judgment revealed that Van den Berg is still under investigation by Spain’s national sports disciplinary committee and “may be subject to criminal sanctions”.

As things stand, Romania will take their place in Pool B at the 2023 World Cup alongside South Africa, Ireland and Scotland. Portugal, who pushed Italy close at the weekend before eventually losing 38-31, will have a final chance to make it to the tournament via the repechage competition later this year.

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