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Spain's RWC appeal is dead as World Rugby refuse to admit new evidence

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo/World Rugby via Getty Images)

A Spanish appeal of World Rugby’s decision to disqualify them from Rugby World Cup in France next over the use of an ineligible player has been thrown out.

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Spain were awarded a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Pool B alongside the likes of South Africa, Ireland and Scotland in March after qualifiying through the Rugby Europe Championship.

Los Leones were then probed after a tip off from the Romanian rugby union relating to South African born prop Gavin van den Berg. The investigation found them liable and they were docked 5 points, which saw them no longer qualify for the flagship tournament in France.

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Spain sought to introduce new evidence in their appeal, but the governing body refused to admit it. RugbyPass understands that the evidence shows that the player in question was actively involved in the process of falsifying his own passport and effectively duped the FER.

A World Rugby statement reads: “Following an appeal lodged by the Federación Española de Rugby (FER) (Spanish Union), an Independent Appeal Committee has upheld the original decision of the Independent Judicial Committee relating to breaches of player eligibility during the European regional Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification process.

“5 May, 2022, an Independent Judicial Committee determined that the Spanish Union breached the World Rugby Eligibility regulation by fielding Gavin van den Berg in two Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification matches. The sanction imposed by the committee included a fine and points deduction resulting in the Spanish national team no longer qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

“In accordance with the scope of the appeals process, the Spanish Union needed to prove either that: a) the decision of the Independent Judicial Committee was in error; b) in the interests of justice that the decision should be overturned and/or c) that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle.

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“As part of its appeal, the Spanish Union sought to introduce new evidence that was not put before the Independent Judicial Committee. The Independent Appeal Committee carefully considered the Spanish Union’s arguments regarding why the new evidence should be admitted, examined all of the new documentary evidence, and decided not to admit it because:

  1. It determined that the Spanish Union had not adequately explained why this evidence was unavailable on reasonable enquiry ahead of the original hearing; and
  2. In any event it would not be in the interests of justice to do so after having regard for all of the circumstances, including consideration that part of the new evidence presented was not only incomplete, but contained allegations against the player and others relating to the alteration of a photocopy of a national identity document that was subject to ongoing investigations by the appropriate competent bodies in the Spanish jurisdiction.

“The Independent Appeal Committee reviewed the original decision of the Independent Judicial Committee based on the evidence that was before it. Having considered detailed submissions from the Spanish Union and World Rugby, the Independent Appeal Committee dismissed the appeal.”

It’s the second Rugby World Cup in a row that Spain have been thrown out of.

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