Ronan O'Gara in action against Russia in the 2011 World Cup. Source Dan Sheridan INPHO
15 May, 2018, 21:53
Romania, Spain and Belgium were all found to have selected ineligible players during the qualifying tournament and all disqualified from the event.
All three countries will have 14 days to appeal the independent disputes committee's decision with Russian Federation moving into Pool A while Germany will go into a play-off with Portugal with the victor set to play Samoa in a World Cup play-off for the right to join Russian Federation in Pool A.
Romania, Spain and Belgium were all deducted points from the European qualifying tournament for fielding players that were not qualified to play, leaving Germany to play Portugal for the right to play Samoa in the playoffs, the victor of which joins, Japan, Ireland, Scotland and Russian Federation in Pool A in the World Cup, which kicks off September 20, 2019, at Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium.
On Wednesday, the independent disputes confirmed that "Belgium had fielded one or more ineligible players on seven occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which six matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)".
In reference to the entire investigation, the committee added: "Although mistakes were made by Rugby Europe and participating unions, they had not acted in bad faith".
World Rugby insisted that players would be released for the two matches, however, and revealed that it would fund the country's entry into next month's Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji.
Japan will play Russian Federation in the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2019 after Romania were essentially thrown out of the tournament for fielding an ineligible player during the qualifying process, World Rugby announced Wednesday.
"No further comment will be made while the 14-day appeal window is open".
In its conclusion to the review, the disputes committee said: "For the detailed reasons set out above: (1) we have not set aside the result of the match on 18 March 2018; and (2) we have found that Belgium, Spain and Romania fielded ineligible players in RWCQ and Rugby European games and determined that each Union should have deducted 5 points for each game in which an ineligible player or players played".
World Rugby said the rescheduled playoff dates will enable the least-possible disruption for Samoa's European and Southern Hemisphere based players, following initial fears the qualifying matches could be played as late as August.
However, the independent committee declined the request by World Rugby and Spain because the appearance of bias was not enough to overturn the result.
This means that Germany are elevated to a match against Portugal on June 9 for a chance to meet Samoa in the final play-off.
However, the match was marred by an incident following the match where Iordachescu was harassed by five Spanish players who were banned for their part in the post-match altercation.
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