Russia qualify for RWC after Romania and Spain field ineligible players
Russia have been granted a place at the 2019 Rugby World Cup after Romania and Spain were found to have fielded ineligible players during the qualification stage.
This year's Rugby Europe Championship was won by Georgia, who had already secured their place at the finals in Japan due to their third-place finish in the Pool phase of the 2015 tournament.
That meant Romania's runners-up spot saw them advance, ahead of Spain and Russia.
But in a statement released on Tuesday, World Rugby confirmed that both Romania and Spain had broken eligibility rules, resulting in a points penalty for both countries.
"Romania has fielded one ineligible player on eight occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which six matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)," a statement read.
"Spain had fielded one or more ineligible players on nine occasions during the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championships (of which eight matches related to Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying)."
Belgium, who finished fifth in the six-team group, were also found to have selected ineligible players in six matches relating to RWC qualifying, leading to the following punishments, which are subject to appeal within two weeks:
"The deduction of five points for any match in which a union fielded an ineligible player (40-point deduction for Spain, and a 30-point deduction for both Belgium and Romania)," confirmed World Rugby, while Germany - who finished pointless after losing all of their matches - will now face Portugal in a play-off.
"Therefore, based on a re-modelling of the Rugby Europe Championship tables in the context of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifying, Russia would qualify as Europe 1 into Pool A, replacing Romania, and Germany will replace Spain in the European play-off against Portugal."
Tuesday's announcement is not the only controversy to surround the Championship, after five Spain players were banned for a combined total of 121 weeks for their furious reaction to Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu's handling of their crucial clash with Belgium.
Belgium prevailed 18-10, a result which at the time saw Romania secure their place at the World Cup.