European Rugby has been left embarrassed after Romania, Spain and Belgium all fielded ineligible players in the Rugby Europe Championship. All three teams were deducted five competition points for each game that they had ineligible players on the field, regardless of the result. This meant that they each finished with negative points.
Georgia, which went through the competition undefeated, had already secured a place at next year’s Rugby World Cup. This meant that the next best team would gain direct qualification to the tournament, while third place would enter a playoff series with Samoa for a spot.
Romania, Spain and Belgium were the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the Championship. Their penalties meant that Russia, which only won two games in the tournament, moved into second place and claimed a spot in Japan. Germany, which finished last with no wins and zero competition points, took out third place and will play against Samoa.
This farce followed on from an earlier European rugby scandal in the game between Belgium and Spain. Romania was, at that point, in second place and needed Spain to win in order to guarantee them entry to the World Cup. The referee was a Romanian who allegedly penalised Belgium out of the game, effectively handing Spain the match.
World Rugby declined to intervene at this point, which infuriated the Belgians – and then Belgium discovered that Spain had used ineligible players in that match. They again tried to have the match overturned, and the International Rugby Board (IRB) decided to investigate. They found that Spain had indeed been fielding ineligible players throughout the tournament – but so had Belgium.
Romania was also caught up in the scandal, which meant that they lost their qualification spot and will miss the world cup for the first time ever. European rugby will be represented by Georgia and Russia along with the Six Nations teams, and Germany will enter for the first time if they can beat Samoa in a home and away playoff series (which they won’t).