121-week ban for five Spanish players after RWC qualifier
FIVE Spain rugby internationals have been banned for between 14 and 43 weeks for abusing a match official at the end of a controversial Rugby Europe Championship match against Belgium last month.
The Spanish team was incensed by the performance of referee Vlad Iordachescu in its 18-10 loss in Brussels - a result that meant Spain missed out on automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Members of Spain's coaching team were forced to restrain their players and Iordachescu had to be escorted from the field.
A Rugby Europe independent judicial committee sanctioned five of Spain's team.
Sebastien Rouet received a 43-week ban for physical and verbal abuse of a match official, Guillaume Rouet got 36 weeks and Pierre Barthere, Lucas Guillaume and Mathieu Belie were all handed 14-week suspensions.
A misconduct complaint against the Spanish Rugby Union was suspended and a hearing date will be set.
Romania qualified for the World Cup because of Spain's loss to Belgium. Iordachescu is from Romania, as were his assistants for the game.
World Rugby said it was "deeply concerned" about the choice of Romanian officials for the match because they were "not neutral in the context of qualification," and that Rugby Europe had failed to heed Spain's request to change the officials.
In a separate investigation, World Rugby has ordered an independent review into Romania, Spain and Belgium possibly using ineligible players for Rugby Europe Championship games.
If the breaches are found to be correct, Russia could end up qualifying.