Spain to miss 2023 Rugby World Cup due to unsuitable player

The country’s rugby federation said on Thursday that Spain had been excluded from the 2023 Rugby World Cup after fielding an ineligible player in qualifying matches.

World Rugby has decided to fine Spain a total of €29,600 and cut ten points, meaning Spain are no longer eligible to compete in the tournament in France next year.

This would be their second performance and their first since 1999. Spain will be replaced in the final by Romania and Portugal will now advance to the final qualifier.

The investigation was launched after the Romanian rugby federation complained that Spain illegally fielded South African-born front-line striker Gavin van der Berg.

Van der Berg made his debut and attempted for Spain in December in a World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands. He also played in the second leg in February in Madrid.

He arrived in Spain in 2018 and needed to live in the country for three years without a two-month break in order to qualify for a residence permit.

But van der Berg reportedly returned to South Africa for four months in 2019 and returned there again during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Spanish federation said it was looking into the possibility that the player’s passport had been forged and opened a disciplinary procedure to investigate the case. You now have 14 days to appeal World Rugby’s decision.

Spanish rugby federation president Alfonso Feijoo said he would step down after the appeal process was completed.

“We are responsible, but not guilty,” Feiju said. “We have lost office space that we earned on the field.”

Spain, along with Romania and Belgium, were sanctioned by World Rugby in 2018 for fielding ineligible players in qualifying for the last World Cup. As a result of the penalties, Russia qualified for the 2019 tournament in Japan.

Russia was banned from the 2023 Rugby World Cup after invading Ukraine on February 24.