Five Spanish rugby players banned over row with referee

Rugby Europe on Tuesday banned five Spanish players, one for 43 weeks, for accosting the referee at the end of a World Cup qualifying loss to Belgium.

Five Spanish rugby players banned over row with referee
Spain's players react against the referee during the rugby union match between the Black Devils. Photo: AFP

Spain would have qualified directly for next year's World Cup in Japan at the expense of Romania with victory in Brussels on March 18th. 

But, in a match  refereed by a Romanian, Belgium won 18-10.   

At the final whistle outraged Spanish players surrounded the referee, Vlad Iordachescu.

Octavian Morariu, the president of Rugby Europe, which organises qualification for countries outside the Six Nations, is also Romanian.     

Spain have asked for a replay.   

READ: Spain demand rematch in rugby World Cup qualifying controversy

Spain's Fabien Perrin reacts during the rugby union match between the Black Devils. Photo: AFP

On Tuesday, a Rugby Europe judicial committee, led by Glasgow University professor Lorne Crerar, considered the cases of five Spanish players “cited  for the overflow” at the end of the match.

It handed the most severe punishments to two French-born brothers who play scrum-half and were both found guilty of physical and verbal abuse of the  referee.

Sebastien Rouet, who started on the bench, was banned for 43 weeks, his brother Guillaume, who started the game, received 36 weeks.   

The two flankers, Pierre Barthere and Lucas Guillaume, and fly-half Mathieu Belie were found guilty of “threatening actions/words at a match official” and  each banned for 14 weeks.

The punishments apply to all levels of rugby and start at once.   

That means the players will be absent for Spain's play-off against first Portugal and, if they win, home and away against Samoa on June 9th and 23rd.     

The committee postponed a decision on whether to punish the Spanish Rugby Union.


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.