Spain loses appeal, remains out of 2023 Rugby World Cup
DUBLIN (AP) — Spain’s appeal to requalify for the Rugby World Cup next year was thrown out on Monday.
World Rugby said an independent appeal committee upheld the decision in April to disqualify Spain for fielding an ineligible player in two qualifying matches.
The governing body added Spain had no further right to appeal, confirming Romania replacing Spain in the Rugby World Cup in France.
New evidence the Spanish Rugby Federation entered in its appeal was considered by the committee but ruled inadmissible because the federation “had not adequately explained” why it was unavailable before the first hearing, and “it would not be in the interests of justice to do so.”
“Part of the new evidence presented was not only incomplete, but contained allegations against the player and others relating to the alteration of a photocopy of a national identity document that was subject to ongoing investigations by the appropriate competent bodies in the Spanish jurisdiction,” the appeal committee said.
The case centered on South Africa-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who appeared as a replacement in two blowout wins by Spain against the Netherlands in 2021 and 2022 in the Rugby European Championship, which doubled as World Cup qualifiers.
Romania complained to World Rugby that Van den Berg didn’t fulfil residency rules to live exclusively in Spain for three years before his national team debut. It was revealed Van den Berg was out of Spain for 127 days and fulfilled only two years.
Spain was deducted the 10 points it earned from the two wins, which dropped it out of qualifying position.
The Spaniards were also thrown out of qualifying before the 2019 Rugby World Cup because of ineligible players, and the federation was formally warned by World Rugby in May 2020 about its vetting process after it asked for a retroactive eligibility check on South Africa-born wing John-Wessel Bell after he debuted for Spain.
Part of Spain’s appeal alleged Van den Berg was complicit with three members of his Alcobendas club in altering the entry-exit dates on a photocopy of his passport.
The three plus Van den Berg are subject to ongoing disciplinary proceedings by the federation, which has also filed an ongoing criminal complaint with Spain’s Public Prosecutor’s office against all four for alleged passport forgery.
But the appeal committee was disconcerted by the lack of information in the federation’s “thorough investigations.”
The appeal committee agreed that the original sanctions against Spain were “reasonable and appropriate.”
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