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Samoa knew they'd be facing Spain in RWC qualifier...over 2 weeks ago

By Ian Cameron
Samoa perform their war dance

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The intrigue surrounding Spain’s failure to automatically qualify for the Rugby World Cup is deepening, as an article written over two weeks ago suggested that Samoan Rugby knew they’d be facing Spain and not Romania in the playoff.

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Manu Samoa – according to the article in the Samoa Observer – knew they would be facing Spain in a Rugby World Cup qualifer on June 9, despite the fact that Spain were in pole position to take the automatic qualifying space.

Instead Romania qualified for Rugby World Cup 2019 after a dramatic finale to the Rugby Europe Championship yesterday (Sunday). Spain must now face Portugal for the right to play Samoa in June.

Ugly scenes at the Belgium Spain match in Brussels, where Spanish players surrounded the Romanian referee, Vlad Iordachescu; have catapulted the issue to prominence in the last 24 hours.

The choice of a Romanian referee in a match that directly affected Romania’s qualification for the Rugby World Cup has raised eyebrows and questions have been asked as to how this situation was allowed develop by World Rugby.

The penalty count in the match is reported to have been in the region of 28 – 8 in favour of Belgium and many are questioning how the penalty could be so one-sided.

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Rugby Europe released the following statement today: “Rugby Europe Selection Committee is waiting for the assessment report of the Supervisor for Belgium v Spain Match officials.

“In addition, this Committee will meet in Poznan next Friday on the occasion of the Rugby Europe U18 Championships. Its agenda will be modified and a large portion of the meeting will be devoted to the analysis of every stage of the Belgium v Spain game. Following this meeting, a statement will be released to Rugby Europe Board of Directors for dissemination.”

Adding to the intrigue is that fact the Samoa Observer reported two weeks ago on March 1 that: “Spain will host Manu Samoa for their first Rugby World Cup qualifying match on June 9.

“This was confirmed by the Manu Samoa Head Coach, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, in an interview with Samoa Observer.

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“Manu Samoa will then host Spain in Apia Park on June 23 for their final qualifying match.”

How Samoa’s coaching staff were certain they’d be playing Spain is unclear.

Prior to the 2018 Rugby Europe Championship, Romania would have been favourites to grab the automatic qualifying, but the statement from Manu Samoa came after Spain had beaten Romania and had themselves become favourites to automatically qualify.

World Rugby released the following statement today, washing their hands of the appointment of the referee.

“While World Rugby does not appoint match officials for the Rugby Europe Championship, it is in contact with Rugby Europe to understand the context of events relating to the Belgium v Spain match in Brussels on Sunday, which doubled as an important RWC 2019 qualifier.”

Despite the loss, Spain are confirmed as the second-placed team in European qualification and must now play Portugal for the right to play Samoa in home and away fixtures.

The winner on aggregate will join Romania in Pool A as the Play-Off winner, while the loser will participate in the four-team Repechage in November against Canada and two other teams.

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