Five Spanish rugby players are said to be housebound as they struggle to come to terms with the bans handed down to them by Rugby Europe for their parts in ugly scenes last month following a vital international rugby match.

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On Tuesday Rugby Europe handed out bans of 121 weeks to the five Spanish players who were involved in a bust-up with a Romanian referee over his decision making during their defeat to Belgium in a World Cup qualifier.

Reuters are reporting that captain Jaime Nava stated that the five players are “on the verge of depression and cannot leave their homes”.

The Spanish Rugby Federation made a formal complaint to World Rugby and sent a video with 19 disputed refereeing decisions from their 18-10 defeat on March 18th.

The loss denied Spain an automatic place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and their players surrounded the Romanian referee, Vlad Iordachescu after their loss.

World Rugby has already announced that it will investigate the recent Rugby Europe Championship match between sides and the ineligibility issues that subsequently came to light in the aftermath of the tournament.

But in the meantime a Rugby Europe Independent Judicial Committee has sanctioned five Spanish players in bans totaling over two years, with brothers Sebastien and Guillaume Rouet getting the majority of the 121 weeks doled out.

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Sebastien Rouet has been given the heftiest punishment, 43 weeks, for “physical abuse of a Match Official and verbal abuse”, while scrum-half Guillaume Rouet has been given a 36-week ban for the same offence.

There were 14-week bans given to backrow’s Lucas Guillaume, Pierre Barthere, along with outhalf Mathieu Belie for “threatening actions/words at a Match Official”.

According to Nava, who spoke to reporters at a publicity event; “The bans are what we expected but with all the circus that followed the game and the ineligible starting line-ups, I’m very annoyed and surprised that the first thing they have announced were the sanctions on our players.”

“I’m also sad because there are five teammates and friends that are feeling distraught. They won’t leave their homes and they’re on the verge of depression — some more than others because some of the sanctions are manageable, but the Rouet brothers (bans) are very harsh.”

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In a statement Rugby Europe said “These sanctions are applicable immediately for all players’ rugby activities (clubs and national teams). Players have the right of appeal within 7 days of receipt of the written decision. The misconduct complaint against the Spanish Rugby Union was suspended and a further hearing date will be set.”

This week the International Rugby Players has called on World Rugby to take more control over global tournaments, after the fallout from the recent Rugby Europe Championship.

The official players representative body also called for greater transparency around the Rugby World Cup qualification process, aligned with enhanced accountability from Regional Associations.

“We support World Rugby’s efforts to eradicate any perceived manipulation of fair play,” said CEO of International Rugby Players, Omar Hassanein.

“But this investigation highlights the need to closely monitor the activity of regional associations, particularly around Rugby World Cup qualification matches.

“Players, especially at Tier Two level, sacrifice a lot to follow their Rugby World Cup dream and, if integrity is undermined, it will erode the trust which exists between players, administrators and fans of our sport. The players in this situation deserve better than this.”

International Rugby Players welcomes World Rugby’s decision to form an independent disputes committee to examine issues around the Rugby Europe competition.

“We have seen how damaging it can be to the reputation of other sports when questions about integrity have been raised and are not dealt with properly,” added Hassanein.

“Competitions at all levels of the professional game need to be administered with the same high standards to preserve the integrity and values of our sport.”

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