World Rugby slams Spain as ‘quite despicable’ after they were kicked out of next year’s Rugby World Cup

World Rugby criticizes Spain as ‘quite despicable’ after they were banned from next year’s Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible player in a storm of ‘manipulation’

  • Spain was expelled from the Rugby World Cup and was replaced by Portugal
  • Spanish officials were devastated by last month’s decision by World Rugby
  • A written ruling from World Rugby has revealed the reasons behind the move.
  • The sport’s governing body expelled Spain for fielding an ineligible player

World Rugby has described the series of events that led to Spain being kicked out of next year’s World Cup in France as “quite despicable”.

The Spaniards were found guilty last month of fielding an illegible player whose passport was forged so he could be selected on residency grounds.

South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg made two appearances against the Netherlands during the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Van den Berg, who plays for Madrid club Alcobendas, was unaware that his passport had been forged.

Spain qualified for the Rugby World Cup but was expelled for fielding an ineligible player

Spain qualified for the Rugby World Cup but was expelled for fielding an ineligible player

Romanian rugby federation raised concerns about Gavin Van den Berg's eligibility

Romanian rugby federation raised concerns about Gavin Van den Berg’s eligibility

Spain finished runners-up in the Rugby Europe Championship to seal a place at France 2023 and what would have been their first World Cup in 24 years.

But World Rugby’s investigation into Van den Berg found that he had not been a Spanish resident during the 36-month period required to play in his adopted country.

A 10-point deduction and a £25,000 fine, as well as being banned from the World Cup, was Spain’s punishment. They will be replaced by Portugal for next year’s tournament.

On Thursday, World Rugby published a full written decision criticizing Spain’s lax attitude towards the sport’s eligibility laws.

The written decision reads: “It appears that representatives of the player’s club, without the knowledge of Spain or the player, altered the travel stamps in the player’s passport to make it appear that the player had not been out of Spain for more than two months in that first year to facilitate the player’s reclassification as a national player.

Spanish rugby officials were devastated by World Rugby's decision, taken last month

Spanish rugby officials were devastated by World Rugby’s decision, taken last month

‘However, despite the changed stamps, the player had been out of Spain longer than allowed.

‘The machinations revealed about the apparent manipulation are quite despicable and reflect very poorly on those who may have played a role in such events.

The three allegedly complicit club officials refused to testify.

The committee further expressed concern that the union did not appear to have an appropriate process for reviewing the movements of players who relied on residency for eligibility.

Spain celebrated their qualification only to be kicked out of the tournament by World Rugby

Spain celebrated their qualification only to be kicked out of the tournament by World Rugby

The committee noted that the union had been sanctioned in the past for selecting ineligible players and, in those circumstances, expected the union to have strict processes in place to ensure that each player’s circumstances had been carefully considered before being selected.

“The committee further noted its dissatisfaction with the union that did not seek confirmation of the player’s eligibility before selecting the player to represent the union.”

Spain has the right to appeal the full written decision within 14 days, but is unlikely to do so.

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