Russia were awarded a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after the rugby union international governing body sensationally disqualified Romania, Spain and Belgium on Tuesday.
Russia had finished third in European qualifying for the Rugby World Cup but head to the tournament after Romania, who originally won the section, second-placed Spain and fourth-placed Belgium were all docked points for fielding ineligible players.
In Romania’s case, World Rugby said Sione Faka’osilea was ineligible having previously played for the Tonga sevens team.
The Romanian Rugby Federation insisted Wednesday that Faka’osilea was indeed eligible, having had confirmation from Tonga rugby federation president Fe’ao Vunipola, father of England internationals Billy and Mako, to that note.
Russia have been awarded a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after World Rugby sensationally disqualified Spain, Romania and Belgium, the rugby union international governing body said on Tuesday.
Russia had finished third in European qualifying for the RWC but head to the tournament after Romania, who originally won the section, second-placed Spain and fourth-placed Belgium were all docked points for fielding ineligible players.
“World Rugby notes the outcome of the independent disputes committee review into matters relating to the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championship, competitions that doubled as a Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification event,” said a statement issued on Tuesday.
“In line with the decision, Russia will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 as Europe 1, joining Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the play-off winner in Pool A, while Germany will progress to the European play-off with Portugal, subject to the appeals process.”
#RWC2019: We would like to reach out to the Players, Managements, Backroom Staff and - most of all - to the Fans of the Unions affected and say: We have been there (#RWC2003). We know how this hurts. We feel for you. Stay strong. Stay #RugbyFamily. You will be back.— Rugby Union Russia (@russiarugby) May 15, 2018
The controversy kicked off when Spain’s rugby federation (FER) demanded a rematch of their loss to Belgium, which ultimately allowed Romania to qualify at their expense for next year’s showpiece in Japan.
The FER pointed to several errors by the referee, Romanian Vlad Iordachescu, during an 18-10 defeat in Brussels in which the official had to be protected from irate Spanish players as he left the field.
World Rugby set up a disputes committee to examine Spain’s complaints.
But instead of vilifying Belgium, the committee revealed that Spain, Belgium and Romania had all fielded ineligible players during qualifying matches for the RWC.
Subsequently, Spain were docked 40 points with Romania and Belgium penalised 30 each – five points for every match in which an ineligible player appeared.
It meant that Russia won the group despite winning only half of their eight qualification matches, while Germany who lost six of theirs, were second and head into the play-offs.
All three sanctioned teams were fined from £50,000 to £125,000.
World Rugby said it is “extremely disappointed with the unfortunate and avoidable events” and added: “Regulation 8 covering eligibility is essential to maintaining the unique characteristics and culture of elite competitions between unions, and the integrity of international matches depends on strict adherence to eligibility criteria set out in the regulation.
“The committee’s decision and findings clearly demonstrate issues with the processes adopted by some of the participating unions relating to the eligibility of players as well as the delivery and organisation of the Rugby Europe Championship.”
BREAKING: Romania have been replaced by Russia for RWC 2019 in Japan after World Rugby inquiry into ineligible players.— Martin Cross (@MartinXRugby) May 15, 2018
(Spain + Belgium also ruled out of qualifying for same reason).
Germany advance to play-off with Portugal. Winner plays Samoa for a place in Japan!
The Uruguayans, who had beaten Canada 38-29 in last week’s first leg to build a nine-point cushion, fought back from 15-0 down in the first half to book their fourth appearance in rugby‘s biggest tournament.
Two opportunistic second-half tries from Uruguay centre Andres Vilaseca sealed a deserved win for the South Americans and sent Canada into a repechage later this year.
Uruguay will now enter Pool D alongside Australia, Wales, Georgia and Fiji.
Canada, who have never failed to qualify for the Rugby World Cup, made a dream start with fullback Brock Staller kicking a penalty for a 3-0 lead before Newcastle wing D.T.H. Van der Merwe rounded off a flowing move for the game’s opening try.
Canada then drove over from a lineout for another converted score, Taylor Paris dotting down, to put the visitors ahead on aggregate and on course for a ticket to Japan.
But Uruguay came roaring back and caught Canada napping with a quick tap penalty which allowed lock forward Ignacio Dotti to barrel through flimsy Canadian tackling for a try.
France-based fly-half Felipe Berchesi added the conversion before drilling a penalty to put Uruguay right back in it at 15-10.
Staller added a penalty just before half-time to give Canada an 18-10 lead at the break but Uruguay reduced the deficit to five points when centre Juan Manuel Cat wriggled over from close range for a score early in the second half.
Staller hit back with a penalty to make it 21-15 to Canada before Berchesi responded immediately after the visitors were pinged for a high tackle.
As the game entered its decisive phase, Canada wilted visibly, and when a sloppy pass went to ground near halfway, Vilaseca pounced and raced over from 40 metres to put Uruguay 23-21 ahead. Berchesi added the conversion to make it 25-21.
Replacement Djustice Sears-Duru drove over to put Canada 26-25 ahead with 10 minutes left, but another Canadian blunder allowed Vilaseca to scamper clear to score once again to effectively seal qualification.
Van der Merwe scored a late consolation try for Canada.