World Rugby orders review into ineligible players

DUBLIN — World Rugby has ordered an independent review into Romania, Spain, and Belgium possibly using ineligible players which may affect qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Romania qualified last month when Spain was upset by Belgium 18-10 in Brussels. Spain would have qualified, instead, with a win.

But following that Rugby Europe Championship match, which brought up its own dire issues about the Romanian match officials and the Spain players chasing the referee out of the stadium, new information was revealed regarding ineligible players.

Sione Faka'osilea was reportedly ineligible for Romania, Mathieu Belie and Bastien Fuster for Spain, and Victor Paquet for Belgium, because they previously played for national teams that tied them to countries of their birthplace.

"Given this information concerns potential breaches of World Rugby regulations, and given the complexity and interconnectivity of the issues, a full and independent review is warranted, World Rugby said in a statement on Thursday.

World Rugby said the chairman of its independent judicial panel, Christopher Quinlan, will form and convene the review committee "on an emergency basis in order to achieve certainty as soon as possible."

Romania finished second in the championship to qualify. Spain was third, and Belgium fifth. If the breaches are found to be correct, fourth-place Russia could end up qualifying.

In the immediate aftermath of the Belgium-Spain match, World Rugby said it and the Rugby World Cup board "felt that a relay would be in the best interests of the game."

But a replay has been sidelined while they investigate possible ineligible players.

In the meantime, World Rugby said it was "deeply concerned" about the choice of Romanian match officials for the Belgium-Spain match because they were "not neutral in the context of qualification," and that Rugby Europe failed to heed Spain's request to change the officials.

Also, Rugby Europe has appointed an independent judicial panel to review the conduct of Spain's players after fulltime against Belgium.

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