Russia will automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup as Europe 1 after Romania, Belgium and Spain all had points deducted for fielding ineligible players.
Russia will now join Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the playoff winner in Pool A following an independent judicial and disputes committee decision.
In a statement released on Tuesday, World Rugby also confirmed that Germany will progress to the European playoff with Portugal, subject to the appeals process.
Back in March, Spain suffered a controversial 18-10 loss to Belgium, which was set to result in Romania qualifying for the 2019 World Cup at their expense.
At the final whistle, furious Spanish players surrounded Romanian referee Vlad Lordachescu, who had awarded 18 penalties against them. Five players were ultimately suspended for accosting the official.
As part of the fallout, World Rugby assembled a committee to examine issues arising from the controversial match, the result of which were released on Tuesday.
‘While the independent disputes committee has determined that 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, as expressed when announcing the convening of the independent committee,’ read the statement.
‘Regulation 8 covering eligibility is essential to maintaining the unique characteristics and culture of elite competitions between unions, and the integrity of international matches depends on strict adherence to eligibility criteria set out in the regulation.
‘The committee’s decision and findings clearly demonstrate issues with the processes adopted by some of the participating unions relating to the eligibility of players as well as the delivery and organisation of the Rugby Europe Championship.
‘World Rugby is committed to addressing these issues and will lead a review of European tournament delivery in the context of Rugby World Cup qualifying in full partnership with Rugby Europe. This will include the organisation’s processes for eligibility compliance and match official appointments in order to prevent a repeat of these unfortunate events.
In addition, World Rugby stated that they already formally reminded all unions and regional associations of their obligations regarding regulation 8 and would reiterate it at the annual meeting of the council this week. World Rugby will also oversee match official appointments at all stages of future World Cup qualifiers.
‘Fans who have purchased tickets for Rugby World Cup 2019 matches involving Romania via official channels will be entitled to a full refund for the face value of the ticket should they not wish to attend. No further comment will be made while the 14-day appeal window is open,’ the statement concluded.
Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images