Having secured a World Cup spot for the first time in 24 years, Spain have been stripped of this place for the second edition of the tournament in a row for using an ineligible player during the qualification stages.
Although they have 14 days to appeal the decision, it is almost certain that they shall be replaced at the competition by Romania.
They have been handed a ten-point penalty in the European qualification stages, meaning Portugal are also now in a position to potentially reach the World Cup should they secure their place through a final qualification tournament in November.
It would be a huge achievement for both Romania and Portugal to reach the World Cup, with the former having not featured since 2015, and the latter having only played at one World Cup in their history, in 2007.
Despite this, questions must be raised of those in power in the Spanish camp, as they have robbed their nation of an appearance at the biggest competition in rugby once again – a failure that cannot be taken lightly.
Gavin van den Berg, a player of South African origin, falsified his date of entry into Spain in order to comply with eligibility requirements, but following an investigation by the sport’s world governing body, he was found guilty of this offence, and thus the nation were removed from next year’s tournament.
The scenes of jubilation in March have now gone to waste, and the supporters of the team must now endure another four years of waiting
Although less severe than their previous breach, in which they fielded two ineligible players for eight qualification matches, it is still foolish and reckless on the part of the Spanish national team to repeat such an error, having already suffered a 40-point deduction for their transgression in the 2019 qualifiers.
By no means were Spain in a position to challenge for the trophy, but simply appearing at the competition would have been enormous for a team that have failed to reach it since 1999.
The scenes of jubilation in March when the team thought they had cemented their place in Pool B have now gone to waste, and the supporters of the team must now endure another four years of waiting.
Spain have been handed a £25,000 fine, and also owe £50,000 for their identical eligibility breach back in 2018, during qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
Spain’s loss is Romania’s gain, however, as they shall be joining Scotland, Ireland, and reigning world champions South Africa in Pool B, as well as a yet-unconfirmed Asia-Pacific qualifier.
The 2023 World Cup will commence on Friday 8 September next year as hosts France lock horns with the All Blacks in what will be an enticing fixture.