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It's happened again... Spain mired in another ineligible player controversy

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Spain have landed themselves in yet another ineligible player controversy just two years after the last incident resulted in them being disqualified from the 2019 World Cup.


The selection of Mathieu Belie, Bastien Fuster and Fabien Grammatico for matches in 2018 cost the Spaniards their chance of appearing at the recent finals in the Far East. 

And their latest Rugby Europe Championship has now become embroiled in further red tape following the selection of John Wessel Bell.  

The South African played in their opening matches of the 2020 tournament against Russia and Georgia but his name was absent from the team sheet to play Romania last weekend.

The excuse initially offered was that he has suffered a stomach upset, but that fabrication didn’t last long. 

(Continue reading below…)

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It since merged that the Spanish Federation (FER) were unable to provide the necessary supporting documents for the player, and supporters are alleged to be furious there is yet again a player eligibility row surrounding their national team. 

A winger at the Valladolid club since 2016, it was thought that the South Africa has qualified for Spain under the three-year residency rule.  

However, it emerged that he spent 68 days last season back in South Africa, marginally in excess of the qualification regulations threshold which stipulates that “except in exceptional circumstances, the player must be physically at least ten months in the country concerned during each year that is part of the period of residence”. 


It was Tuesday when the FER finally addressed the vagueness surrounding Wessel Bell, explaining it would turn to World Rugby to be sure that the player is eligible and that nothing wrong has occurred. 

However, their admission only stirred up anger, especially given what happened in 2018. “There is a lack of competence and rigour,” said one player to media about the latest controversy. “Even if John is finally declared eligible by World Rugby, what image do we send back?”

Spain are currently fourth on the table in what is often referred to at the Six Nations B championship, their opening round win over Russia followed by losses to Georgia and Romania. 

A sanction from the tournament organisers would likely see them drop to the last place on the table and face relegation, not a promising outlook with qualification for the 2023 World Cup set to start next year. 

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