Rus­sia reach the World stage af­ter trio are pun­ished

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY DUN­CAN BECH

RUS­SIA have au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fied for next year’s World Cup af­ter Spain, Bel­gium and Ro­ma­nia were pe­nalised for field­ing in­el­i­gi­ble play­ers.

An in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee sanc­tioned the of­fend­ing na­tions, dock­ing points to force a re­vi­sion of the 2018 Rugby Eu­ro­pean Cham­pi­onship table, which also de­ter­mines en­try into the global show­piece in Ja­pan.

It sees Rus­sia re­place Ro­ma­nia in sec­ond place, re­sult­ing in their el­e­va­tion into Ja­pan 2019 be­hind Geor­gia, who had al­ready made it through on the strength of their per­for­mance at the last World Cup.

Spain had hoped for a re­prieve fol­low­ing a World Rugby in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances of their loss to Bel­gium, but the in­de­pen­dent panel has cho­sen to dock all three teams points, sub­ject to ap­peal.

The judg­ment means Rus­sia join Ire­land, Scot­land and Ja­pan in Pool A while Ger­many and Por­tu­gal will clash for the right to face Samoa in a fi­nal elim­i­na­tor for World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

A World Rugby state­ment read: “While mis­takes were not made in bad faith by Rugby Europe and some par­tic­i­pat­ing unions, World Rugby is ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed with the un­for­tu­nate and avoid­able events.”

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