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Rugby Europe issues hefty bans to Spanish players over controversial Belgium match

By Nathaniel Cope
Ugly scenes during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Europe Qualifier match between Belgium and Spain held at Little Heysel next to King Baudouin Stadium on March 18, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.

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Rugby Europe has handed out bans of 121 weeks to 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.


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. 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”.

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.”


Yesterday 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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