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

15 May 2018

Spain had hoped for a reprieve, after a World Rugby investigation into the circumstances of their loss to Belgium, but the independent panel chose to dock all three teams points, subject to appeal.

As a result all three countries have been disqualified and Russian Federation now take the automatic qualification spot with Germany also elevated to a play-off against Portugal for a chance to meet Samoa with the winners gaining a place in the tournament.

Subsequent complaints to World Rugby from other federations over potential player eligibility breaches led to the set-up of an independent committee which found that the match result should stand but that Spain, Belgium and Romania had fielded ineligible players.

Following a review by an independent disputes committee into matters relating to the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championship, competitions that doubled as a Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification event, World Rugby docked the three nations five match points every time ineligible players were used.

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Romania had controversially edged Spain to Europe's final automatic spot, having leapfrogged them on the final day of the Rugby Europe Championship in March following the Spaniards' contentious defeat in Belgium.

Florin Vlaicu of Romania kicks a penalty during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Russian Federation will now play host nation Japan in the opening game of the tournament.

This will be the first World Cup Romania misses.

Though Spain contested the eligibility charge weighed against them, the committee concluded that they were "satisfied that World Rugby's submissions on the fielding of ineligible players by Spain are correct".

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World Rugby also said Regulation 9, which deals with the release of players from their club teams to play test matches, will apply for the rescheduled games to ensure the least-possible disruption for the Pacific islanders, many of whom play their trade in Europe. The committee also criticized Rugby Europe for failing to change the match officials at Spain's request and, instead, asked the officials only if they wanted to step aside.

Spain lost 40 points after Mathieu Belie and Bastien Fuster played eight qualifying matches illegally after previously representing France Under-20s.

"Rugby Europe deeply regrets this situation, " the body said in a statement.

"The principle that "the referee's position as sole judge of fact and law during the match is unassailable" is a core principle of rugby, as is the very limited jurisdiction of a Disciplinary Committee to overturn the decisions of referees made on the pitch after the game", a World Rugby statement read.

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