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World Rugby statement: Spain under investigation for eligbility breach

By Ian Cameron
Victor Sanchez (L) of Spain of Spain celebrate qualifying fro the Rugby World Cup 2023 with teammate Thierry Feuteu (2ndL) after winning the Rugby Europe Championship 2022 match between Spain and Portugal at Campo Rugby Central (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Spain’s much-celebrated qualification for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 could be about to come crashing down after World Rugby revealed they are investigating if the national team have breached eligibility rules.

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Spain qualified for the tournament earlier this month after beating Portugal 33-28 in Madrid in the Rugby Europe Championship.

If they do make it to the tournament, it will be their first appearance in 24 years at the tournament. The Romanian rugby union have filed a complaint against the Spanish.

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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots
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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots

Spain were infamously thrown out of the 2019 tournament, also for an eligibility breach. The selection of Mathieu BelieBastien Fuster and Fabien Grammatico for matches in 2018 cost the Spaniards their chance of appearing at the finals in the Far East. 

Just two years later, in 2020, they were investigated again by World Rugby, over the selection of John Wessel Bell.  The South African winger claimed to have qualified through residency, although there were difficulties with securing documents proving his residency in the country. 

Once again, their attendance could be under threat, with the side officially under investigation. A World Rugby statement reads: “World Rugby will convene an independent judicial committee to examine a potential breach of World Rugby Regulation 8 (eligibility to play for national representative teams) by the Spanish Rugby Union (FER) during the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 and 2022, which doubled as the European qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023.

“World Rugby was made aware of a potential breach concerning one member of the Spanish national men’s senior team. Having concluded initial enquiries, the international federation believes a formal independent review is warranted as provided for by the World Rugby Regulations. The Spanish Rugby Union has been fully cooperative throughout the initial enquiries.

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“World Rugby’s independent Judicial Panel Chairman Christopher Quinlan QC has been asked to form the judicial committee to achieve certainty as soon as possible given any potential impact on Rugby World Cup 2023. Quinlan has appointed Nigel Hampton QC (chair), Pamela Woodman and Frank Hadden to the committee.

“With the process now live, World Rugby will not be making further comment until its conclusion.”

The FER (Spanish Rugby Union) have also issued their own statement, which states: “As World Rugby has made public this Monday and previously informed the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER), the highest body in our sport is going to examine a possible irregularity in the eligibility of a XV del León player during the Rugby Europe Championship 2021-2022, qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in France.

“As indicated in its statement, World Rugby, which appreciates that the FER has collaborated from the outset by providing all the requested documentation, has appointed an independent committee to resolve this open file following a claim filed by the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR).

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“At the FER we are convinced that things have been done correctly and therefore we can only wait for the resolution of the independent committee appointed by World Rugby and chaired by Nigel Hampton and assisted by Pamela Woodman and Frank Hadden.

“Like World Rugby, the FER will not make any comments until the conclusion of the process.”

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