Russia will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 as Europe 1, not Romania, and join Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the play-off winner in Pool A.
In a statement released on Tuesday, World Rugby also said that Germany will progress to the European play-off with Portugal, subject to the appeals process.
“While the independent disputes committee has determined that mistakes were not made in bad faith by Rugby Europe and some participating unions, World Rugby is extremely disappointed with the unfortunate and avoidable events, as expressed when announcing the convening of the independent committee,” read the statement.
“Regulation 8 covering eligibility is essential to maintaining the unique characteristics and culture of elite competitions between unions, and the integrity of international matches depends on strict adherence to eligibility criteria set out in the regulation.
“The committee’s decision and findings clearly demonstrate issues with the processes adopted by some of the participating unions relating to the eligibility of players as well as the delivery and organisation of the Rugby Europe Championship.”
It continued: “World Rugby is committed to addressing these issues and will lead a review of European tournament delivery in the context of Rugby World Cup qualifying in full partnership with Rugby Europe. This will include the organisation’s processes for eligibility compliance and match official appointments in order to prevent a repeat of these unfortunate events.
“In addition, World Rugby has already formally reminded all unions and regional associations of their obligations regarding Regulation 8 and will reiterate at the Annual Meeting of Council this week, while World Rugby will also oversee match official appointments at all stages of future Rugby World Cup qualifiers.”
Rescheduling is necessary to maximise time following the conclusion of independent disputes committee review of matters relating to the 2017-18 Rugby Europe Championship, a competition run by Rugby Europe that doubles as Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification.
Subject to any appeal of the disputes committee’s decision, the winner of the European play-off between Germany and Portugal, provisionally scheduled for 9 June 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 30 June with the return leg in Europe on 14 July.
The winner on aggregate will qualify for Japan 2019 as the play-off winner, joining Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Russia in Pool A. The loser will progress to the Repechage competition in November.
The rescheduled dates will enable the least-possible disruption for Samoa’s European and Southern Hemisphere based players, who will be released under Regulation 9, which covers all Rugby World Cup qualifiers. It also enables all qualifiers to be completed prior to the Repechage competition.
In order to maximise Samoa’s preparation for these important matches, World Rugby is also funding Samoa’s entry into the 2018 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji between 9-16 June, which features Fiji, Georgia and Tonga.
World Rugby concluded by saying that fans who have purchased tickets for Rugby World Cup 2019 matches involving Romania via official channels will be entitled to a full refund for the face value of the ticket should they not wish to attend.
When it came to the eligibility issues, the independent commission which looked at evidence including statements and submissions from World Rugby, Rugby Europe, Belgium, Romania, Spain and Russia. Their conclusion was the following:
- 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 independent 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 would 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)