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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
According to Spanish, the foreign player under investigation may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules. (Photo by LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT

“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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SPORT

Spain’s greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires

Double NBA winner and Europe's most successful basketballer Pau Gasol said on Tuesday he had made the "difficult decision" to retire, but at 41 was at ease with his choice.

Spain's greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires
Spanish player Pau Gasol Saez attends a press conference to announce his retirement, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Gasol, the older brother of recently-released Memphis Grizzlies centre Marc Gasol, won the competition in 2009 and 2010 during his time at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two years ago, he suffered a foot injury which threatened to end his career earlier than planned.

“It is a difficult decision. As you can imagine, it is difficult, after so many years, but it is a considered decision, you have to change gear a little, and know how to enjoy it,” ex-centre Gasol told reporters at a press conference in Barcelona.

“I wanted to end up playing and enjoying myself, not on crutches and with operations,” he added.

He was a six-time NBA All-Star after being named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2002 and won his two NBA crowns alongside Kobe Bryant.

Gasol emotionally paid tribute to former Lakers team-mate Bryant, who died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play in the second quarter while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Los Angeles Lakers stars Gasol and Bryant celebrate a play during the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AFP

“One last word for my friend Kobe Bryant. I would have really liked for him to be here, but it’s not possible,” Gasol said with tears in his eyes.

“Life isn’t fair some times. He taught me how to be a better player, a better leader, I always considered him as a big brother,” he added.

‘The Golden Kids’

For Spain, Gasol, who also had spells with the Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks, claimed two Olympic silver medals and a bronze as well as three EuroBasket crowns.

He was the leader of his country’s generation nicknamed ‘The Golden Kids’ as he led a side including his sibling as well as former Grizzlies shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro and ex-Portland TrailBlazers small forward Rudy Fernandez to the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

The Catalan, standing at 2.16m, is among the continent’s greatest players in the NBA along with German Dirk Nowitzki, Croatian Drazen Petrovic, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and Frenchman Tony Parker, who he passed as EuroBasket’s leading scorer in 2017.

His last international appearance came at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo during the quarter-final defeat to the USA.

He finished his club career with a Liga ACB title in Spain in June while with hometown club Barcelona but failed to clinch the EuroLeague.

“I am thankful to all. Having won one more league with Barca,” he said.

Gasol said he did not want to become a coach but indicated that his future still lay within the game he has graced for over 20 years. “Consultant or director… We’ll see. I’ve already started to speak with many NBA teams,” he said.

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