Rugby-Spain's disqualification from 2023 World Cup confirmed


FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - 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 REUTERS/Susana Vera

(Reuters) - Spain's appeal against their disqualification from next year's Rugby World Cup in France for fielding an ineligible player during the 2021-22 Rugby Europe Championship has been dismissed, the sport's Independent Appeal Committee announced on Monday.

"The Independent Appeal Committee reviewed the original decision of the Independent Judicial Committee based on the evidence that was before it," the Appeal Committee said in a statement.

"Having considered detailed submissions from the Spanish Union and World Rugby, the Independent Appeal Committee dismissed the appeal."

The committee said that with respect to World Cup qualification, the 10-point deduction applied to the European qualification table by the Independent Judicial Committee stands, meaning Romania qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain.

Portugal replaces Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.

The Spanish Rugby Federation's (FER) board of directors said in April that three members of Alcobendas Rugby Club falsified a copy of the passport belonging to Gavin van den Berg, who is of South African origin, in order to make him eligible to play.

Spain secured a World Cup berth for the first time since 1999 after finishing second in the Rugby Europe Championship (REP) but were disqualified from next year's tournament for fielding Van den Berg in two matches in the qualifiers.

World Rugby, the sport's governing body, launched an investigation after a complaint about Van den Berg's eligibility was filed by Romania, who had missed out on automatic qualification after finishing just behind Spain.

FER vice president Jose Maria Epalza said Romania had handed World Rugby a photograph of Van den Berg at a wedding in South Africa in 2019 two weeks before he had supposedly left for Spain, according to the date in the copy of the player's passport supplied to the federation.

In order to be eligible, Van den Berg would have needed to spend 36 months residing in Spain, including at least 10 months in each year.

Van den Berg, however, had spent more than two months out of Spain in 2019. He has not commented on the allegations but an independent judicial committee said his travel stamps had been tampered with without the knowledge of Spain or the player.

In accordance with World Rugby regulations, the decision of the Independent Appeal Committee is final, with no further right to appeal.

(This story corrects sourcing of decision and statement to independent appeal committee)

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas in Madrid and Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Jon Boyle and Ken Ferris and Christian Radnedge)

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