SPAIN has lodged a formal appeal against the country being thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible player in two qualifying matches.

An independent judicial committee found that Gavin Van den Berg, who is of South African origin, had falsified his date of entry into Spain in order to comply with eligibility requirements.

The committee imposed a £25,000 fine over Van den Berg and said that a suspended penalty of £50,000 over 2019 qualification irregularities would also kick in.

VAN DEN BERG

The ruling came on April 28 but Spain had an option to appeal within 14 days.

A World Rugby statement said: “Spain have lodged an appeal against the independent judicial committee’s decision in respect of a breach of the World Rugby eligibility regulation in the context of the Europe region Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifiers.”

“Formal submissions by the union have been received following a short extension of the appeal deadline.”

Spain Rugby Federation president, Alfonso Feijoo, said on April 29 that he would resign once the appeal process is concluded.

Feijoo said: “We are responsible but not guilty. We lost in the offices a place that we earned on the field.”

Alfonso Feijoo
ALFONSO FEIJOO(Spain Rugby Federation image)

Feijoo said the federation was ‘deceived’ by being given the forged copies of Van der Berg’s passport, and that World Rugby and the European rugby federation also didn’t spot the irregularity.

The Spanish federation subsequently opened disciplinary proceedings against the player’s club, Alcobendas.

Van der Berg made his debut with Spain in December in a 52-7 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam in the Rugby Europe Championship, which also doubled as World Cup qualifying game.

The South African was a second-half substitute and scored a try.

He also was a second-half replacement when Spain beat the Netherlands 43-0 in February.

Van der Berg arrived in Spain in 2018 and had to live in the country for three years to qualify on residency before making his debut.

But he reportedly returned to South Africa for four months in 2019 and went back there again during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

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