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All Blacks awarded Spain’s top sports prize

New Zealand's legendary All Blacks were awarded Spain's top sports prize Wednesday for being "an example of racial and cultural integration".

All Blacks awarded Spain's top sports prize
The All Blacks doing the haka. Photo: FPA

The team famed for performing the haka war dance derived from New Zealand's indigenous Maori, and for fielding rugby greats such as the late Jonah Lomu, was given the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports.

“Having become an icon of the sport worldwide, the New Zealand team is also considered an example of racial and cultural integration, conveying values of unity, friendship, solidarity and sportsmanship,” prize organisers said in a statement.

Speaking in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo where the organisers are based, jury president and former Spanish athlete Abel Anton said the All Blacks had racked up a “very high percentage of victories, which puts them among the most successful teams in any sport”.

He added the team helped contribute to “the unity of New Zealanders of different origins, as symbolised by the haka”.   

Coached by Steve Hansen, the All Blacks have won three of the eight Rugby World Cups so far – in 1987, 2011 and 2015.

Andrew Jenks, New Zealand's ambassador in Madrid told The Local: “What a great honour for New Zealand to win recognition of both the sporting excellence of the All Blacks and the good sportsmanship and sporting values epitomized by the All Blacks.”

Rugby is gaining popularity across Spain, a nation traditionally dominated by soccer, and Spain now boasts 212 clubs, a rise of 15 per cent over the past three years. 

The Princess of Asturias awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by the King and Queen of Spain.

SPORT

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“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,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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