Paris: Spain have been expelled from the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France after being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in two games in their qualifying group. The decision, which docks 10 points from Spain, means the county will miss out on playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1999.
A disciplinary panel appointed by World Rugby ruled that the South Africa-born prop Gavin van den Berg played for Spain in qualifying games against the Netherlands, without the correct residency qualifications.
It is the second time that the Spanish have been found guilty of fielding an ineligible player after they were penalised for the same offense in qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. The decision, which came late on Thursday, means that Romania will now take their place, while Portugal will take part in a four-team playoff.
The Spanish Rugby Federation termed the decision extremely harsh.
“After the oral hearing held this Thursday, April 28, with the independent judicial committee appointed by World Rugby to study the claim of the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR) on the eligibility of Gavin Van den Berg, the highest body in world rugby has decided to penalise Spain with 25,000 pounds and deduct five points for each of the two games in which this player was lined up,” said the Spanish Rugby Federation in a statement.
“While waiting for World Rugby to make the ruling official, this decision means disqualification from the 2023 World Cup in France, a competition for which the XV del Leon had qualified directly by finishing second in the 2021-2022 Rugby Europe Championship.
“As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player’s passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time and will shortly call a press conference to offer all the explanations that are required,” the statement read.