Russia to replace Romania in RWC2019 pool

Scotland are set to face Russia, not Romania, in Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool A in Japan.

An independent Judicial and Disputes committee investigated complaints (in relation to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification) that Belgium, Spain and Romania fielded ineligible players, and determined that each team be deducted five championship points for each game in which an ineligible player or players participated.

The independent committee, comprising Sir James Dingemans, Sir Peter Fraser and Lex Mpati, was convened to examine the following issues:

  • The result of the Belgium versus Spain match in March in relation to the process and perception of Rugby Europe’s appointment of a match official team that was not neutral in the context of qualification, which raised issues of apparent (but not actual) bias
  • Whether a breach or breaches of World Rugby Regulation 8 (eligibility) by participating unions had occurred during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championship

In respect of the Belgium versus Spain match result, the independent committee refused the request made by World Rugby and Spain to set aside the result of the match and determined that the match should not be replayed.

In respect of matters relating to the eligibility of players, the independent committee found:

  • Belgium 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)
  • Romania fielded one ineligible player on eight occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which six matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)
  • Spain had fielded one or more ineligible players on nine occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which eight matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)

In respect of the sanctions, pursuant to Regulation 18, the independent committee determined the following:

The deduction of five points for any match in which a union fielded an ineligible player (40-point deduction for Spain and a 30-point deduction for both Belgium and Romania).

Therefore, based on a re-modelling of the Rugby Europe Championship tables (in the context of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying), Russia would qualify as Europe 1 into Pool A, replacing Romania. Germany will replace Spain in the European play-off against Portugal

World Rugby Regulation 8 stipulates mandatory financial penalties for breaches of £25,000 per ineligible player for a union not represented on the World Rugby Council and £100,000 for a union represented on Council.

Therefore, the following financial sanctions will be applied, suspended for a period of five years conditional that no breaches occur during that period:

  • Belgium: £125,000 GBP (at a rate of £25,000 for a union not on Council x 5 ineligible players)
  • Romania: £100,000 GBP (at a rate of £100,000 for a union on Council x 1 player)
  • Spain: £50,000 GBP (at a rate of £25,000 for a union not on Council x 2 ineligible players)

The Independent disputes committee determined that, although mistakes were made by Rugby Europe and participating unions, they had not acted in bad faith.

The committee also recommended that World Rugby re-emphasise the importance and sanctity of Regulation 8 and any other steps that will prevent a repeat of these circumstances. That was because it was desirable to take any steps which avoided the risks of qualification being determined off the pitch.

A 14-day appeal window is open to the unions. Rugby Romania have already confirmed their decision to appeal.