Spain believe they have new information which should lead to the reinstatement of their national team at the Men’s Rugby World Cup next year.
World Rugby announced in April that Spain had been kicked out of the tournament for fielding an ineligible player in the qualifying stages, but an appeal is due to be heard on Thursday.
The Spanish rugby federation (FER) have also been fined £75,000 after it emerged that a reserve forward in the front tier, Gavin van den Berg, failed to meet the residency criteria for three years needed because in his first year he spent 127 days in his native South Africa. It was later found that some date stamps on a photocopy of the player’s passport did not match those on the original document.
As a result, Romania have been promoted to Pool B for next year’s tournament alongside South Africa, Ireland and Scotland. Spain were also kicked out of qualifying for the 2019 tournament in Japan for using ineligible players.
This time, however, FER argue that the player and his club are largely responsible, adding that Van den Berg only played a peripheral role on the pitch. He featured as a substitute for 22 and 34 minutes respectively in his side’s 52-7 and 43-0 wins over the Netherlands, coming only after Spain were already well ahead.
The appeal will be conducted virtually by an independent panel, with the Spanish players desperate for a reprieve. “We know these calls are difficult to undo, but there is some optimism due to the characteristics of the case,” team member Koi Hogg told The Guardian. “It was not a cynical act by the federation. They were basically lied to and we have some new information that will shed some light on that.
“We also think the penalty was excessive in relation to the role the player actually played on the pitch. Both games were arguably won before he even came on. You can imagine what the rest of the game was like. “between us feels. It would be huge for Spain to go to the World Cup next year. It would put us on the map.