BC-RGU-World Rugby-Romania Disqualified, 109URGENTRomania disqualified from Rugby World Cup, Russia promotedEds: APNewsNow.
The teams have subsequently been deducted five points per offence relating to World Cup qualifying, costing Spain 40 points and Belgium and Romania 30 points each - effectively disqualifying all three.
"Having considered all the evidence, including submissions from World Rugby, Rugby Europe, Spain and Belgium, the independent committee refused the request made by World Rugby and Spain to set aside the result of the match, and determined that the match should not be replayed", the committee said in a statement.
World Rugby said in a press release that in line with the decision of an independent disputes committee, "Russia will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 as Europe 1, joining Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the playoff victor in Pool A, while Germany will progress to the European playoff with Portugal, subject to the appeals process". The victor then faces Samoa for a place in the World Cup. The committee found that five players, who between them had played in six matches that counted towards qualification, were ineligible because neither they, nor their parents or grandparents had been born in Belgium.
Romania had only one ineligible player, Sione Faka'osilea, who previously played for Tonga Sevens.
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The unions of Spain, Belgium and Romania have a 14-day window in which to appeal against the panel's decision.
Florin Vlaicu of Romania kicks a penalty during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Russian Federation last competed at the World Cup in 2011 but will now contest the opening match of the 2019 tournament against the hosts Japan.
It would have been much better for the game if Rugby Europe had, once the mathematics of the final matches of the competition become clear, changed the match officials. But in light of a number of complaints about ineligible players, World Rugby called for an emergency inquiry, which found that the result could not be overturned or annulled, because doing so "would undermine the respect to which decisions of referees are entitled, absent corruption or bad faith".
World Rugby also said Regulation 9, which deals with the release of players from their club teams to play test matches, will apply for the rescheduled games to ensure the least-possible disruption for the Pacific islanders, many of whom play their trade in Europe. "The committee also recommended that World Rugby re-emphasise the importance and sanctity of Regulation 8 (eligibility) and any other steps that will prevent a repeat of these circumstances".