It was the first time they had qualified since 1999 and the achievement was celebrated with much fanfare. However, the Romanian rugby union filed a complaint against the Spanish, alleging they had used an illegible player, Gavin Van den Berg, during qualifying.
Spain had qualified by finishing second – behind Georgia – in the combined Rugby Europe Championship 2021 and 2022 standings. Romania finished third and will now take Spain’s place in Pool B.
Scotland had been due to play Spain at Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille, on September 30 next year.
A statement from the España Rugby said: “After the oral hearing held this Thursday, April 28, with the independent judicial committee appointed by World Rugby to study the claim of the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR) on the eligibility of Gavin Van den Berg, the highest body in world rugby has decided to penalize Spain with £25,000 and deduct five points for each of the two games in which this player was lined up.
“While waiting for World Rugby to make the ruling official, this decision means disqualification from the 2023 World Cup in France, a competition for which the XV del León had qualified directly by finishing second in the Rugby Europe Championship 2021-2022.
“As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player's passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time and will shortly call a press conference to offer all the explanations that are required.”
World Rugby, the game’s governing body, said: “Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain, and Portugal will replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.”
“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee.”