Spain will miss out on the 2023 Rugby World Cup, set to be played in France, due to an administrative error. This is the second time the Spanish national team has missed out on the event due to strange circumstances, as they also were denied the opportunity to play in the 2019 World Cup following a refereeing scandal in a crucial qualification match.
The incorrect fielding of South African player Gavin Van der Berg in two of the Rugby Europe Championship, commonly known as Six Nations B and serves as qualification for the World Cup, meant that Spain have been kicked out of next year's tournament. Specifically, the Spanish national team has been docked ten points and fined 28,000 euros.
Van der Berg came to the Spanish city of Burgos in 2018 and seemed to fulfill the requirements needed to stay in Spain for 36 months uninterrupted. He spent a long period of time in South Africa during the pandemic due to his father's illness. This length of time out of the country was longer than he was allowed. On a photocopy of his passport, which isn't certified, it was stamped to show his entry into Spain in September 2021, which would legalise his situation.
In a press release sent out yesterday (28 April), the Spanish Rugby Federation said: "Just like the director general of the Supreme Sports Council, Albert Soler, has been informed in a meeting this afternoon, the case will be passed on to the Prosecutor's office on Friday to investigate the player's alleged passport fraud, which could lead to criminal consequences, as well as sporting ones."
The Spanish Rugby Federation's president, Alfonso Feijoo, also announced that he would be stepping down as a consequence of the scandal. "We are responsible, but not guilty. We have been deceived, I never thought anyone could falsify a document. We are going to appeal to Wold Rugby and after I will resign," he said on Friday.