Russia in Rugby World Cup after 3 teams fielded ineligible players

Russia have been awarded a place at the 2019 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 qualifiers for the 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 a statement, World Rugby said: "In line with the decision, Russia will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 as Europe 1, joining Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the play-off winners in Pool A, while Germany will progress to the European play-off with Portugal, subject to the appeals process."

The controversy started 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.

The FER pointed to several errors by the referee, Romanian Vlad Iordachescu, during an 18-10 defeat in Brussels.

To investigate Spain's complaints, World Rugby set up a disputes committee, which found that Spain, Belgium and Romania had all fielded ineligible players during their World Cup qualifiers.

Spain were docked 40 points with Romania and Belgium penalised 30 each - five points for every match in which an ineligible player appeared. Romania have said that they will appeal. - AFP