SCOTLAND and Ireland face new rugby World Cup opponents after Spain were booted out of the tournament for fielding an ineligible player.
Spain booked the final European spot in next year’s finals in France after taking the runners-up place behind Georgia in the six nation qualifying group.
But third-placed Romania lodged an official process against South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg’s appearance in the two wins over Holland.
Romania’s argument that van den Berg had not been a legal resident for the required three years was upheld by World Rugby chiefs, who fined Spain £25,000 and deducted five points for each match he played.
That dropped Spain to fourth in the standings and put the Romanians back in Pool Two for the tournament, alongside the Scots, Irish, holders South Africa and the winners of the final Asia-Pacific play-off game.
Incredibly it's the SECOND successive men’s tournament where Spain have been thrown out due to eligibility issues.
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And next year would have been their first time in the finals for 24 years.
Their fine actually totals £75k – with £50k of that a suspended penalty for the earlier offence.
Apart from Romania's promotion, Spain's exclusion means Portugal will now enter the process for repechage qualification.
The Spanish rugby federation described their team's punishment as 'very harsh'.
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They blamed the situation on an 'alleged forgery of the player’s passport'.
Spain, Romania and Belgium were ALL deducted points in the last World Cup cycle for using fielded ineligible players.
That allowed Russia to enter the 2019 Japan tournament.
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