An independent Judicial and Disputes committee appointed by World Rugby has ruled that Russia will join Ireland’s Rugby World Cup 2019 pool, following the fielding of ineligible players by Belgium, Spain and Romania in the Rugby Europe Championships.
The independent committee investigating complaints in relation to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification in the context of the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships has found 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 committee, comprising Sir James Dingemans, Sir Peter Fraser and Lex Mpati, was convened to examine the following issues:
– The result of the Belgium v Spain match on Sunday, March 18 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 Championships
In respect of the Belgium v Spain match result, having considered all the evidence, including submissions from World Rugby, Rugby Europe, Spain and Belgium, the 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, following a full review of the evidence, including statements and submissions from World Rugby, Rugby Europe, Belgium, Romania, Spain and Russia, the independent committee found:
– Belgium had fielded one or more ineligible players on 7 occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which 6 matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)
– Romania has fielded one ineligible player on 8 occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which 6 matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)
– Spain had fielded one or more ineligible players on 9 occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which 8 matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)
In respect of the sanctions, pursuant to Regulation 18, the committee determined the following:
– The deduction of 5 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, and Germany will replace Spain in the European play-off against Portugal
Subject to any appeal of the committee’s decision, Russia will be Ireland’s opponents in the penultimate round of the pool stages of next year’s Rugby World Cup. The sides will meet in Kobe on Thursday, October 3, 2019 (kick-off 7.15pm local time/11.15am Irish time).
Ireland and Russia were also pool opponents at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand when the men in green ran in nine tries, including a brace from winger Keith Earls, on the way to claiming a 62-12 victory over the Bears in Rotorua.
Also subject to any appeal, the winners of the European play-off between Germany and Portugal, provisionally scheduled for Saturday, June 9, will play Samoa home and away in the play-off to determine the final Pool A place. The first leg will be played in Apia on Saturday, June 30, with the return leg in Europe on Saturday, July 14.
The winning team on aggregate will qualify for Japan 2019 as the play-off winners, joining Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Russia in Pool A. The losers will progress to the Repechage competition in November.
Meanwhile, 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)
– Spain: £50,000 GBP (at a rate of £25,000 for a Union not on Council x 2 ineligible players)
– Romania: £100,000 GBP (at a rate of £100,000 for a Union on Council x 1 player)
The committee determined that, although mistakes were made by Rugby Europe and participating Unions, they had not acted in bad faith. They 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.
The full written decision by the independent committee can be accessed here. All parties have a right of appeal within 14 days of receiving the full written decision. World Rugby has released a statement here.
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IRELAND’S 2019 RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL A MATCH SCHEDULE:
Sunday, September 22 –
IRELAND v Scotland, International Stadium, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, 4.45pm local time/8.45am Irish time
Saturday, September 28 –
Japan v IRELAND, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture, 4.15pm local time/8.15am Irish time
Thursday, October 3 –
IRELAND v Russia, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe, 7.15pm local time/11.15am Irish time
Saturday, October 12 –
IRELAND v Play-Off Winners, Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka, 7.45pm local time/11.45am Irish time
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