- Van den Berg, born in South Africa, was illegally fielded by Spain.
- Romania will replace the country in pool B, although the country may file an appeal.
Spain has been booted out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Romania will replace it after it was discovered that Los Leones played an ineligible player in qualification, reportedly using a falsified passport.
Spain qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1999 with a thrilling victory over Portugal in March, but they were fined 10 points and eliminated from next year's tournament in France.
An independent disciplinary panel constituted by World Rugby determined that South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg played for Spain in two matches against the Netherlands in 2021 and 2022 despite not qualifying on residency grounds. The tribunal decided that Spain should be penalised five points for each match and fined £25,000, allowing Romania to be eligible for the World Cup and Portugal to progress to November's repechage qualification competition.
The second World Cup cycle in a row has been marred by issues involving ineligible players, with Spain also embroiled in the scandal surrounding the 2019 event. Then, Romania, Spain, and Belgium were all found guilty, allowing Russia to qualify for the World Cup. Spain was awarded a £50,000 suspended fine at the time, which they are now obligated to pay. Romania will compete in Pool B alongside South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, and, most likely, Tonga in France 2023, while Portugal will compete in the four-team final qualification round.
After learning of the ruling, Romania claimed that "justice has been done." In contrast, the Spanish federation, which can appeal, condemned the verdict as "extremely severe" before acknowledging that it occurred "due to an alleged fabrication of the player as mentioned earlier's passport." It is believed that part of the problem stems from how Van den Berg divided his time between Spain and South Africa, which was hampered by travel restrictions caused by the epidemic.
"As this extremely punitive consequence happens due to an alleged fabrication of the player mentioned above's passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation continues with the special disciplinary proceedings established at the time," the Spanish federation said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry, who led England during the Six Nations, are due to return from injury this weekend, providing Eddie Jones with a double fitness boost ahead of England's summer tour to Australia. Northampton branded Lawes as "Frankenstein's monster" earlier this week due to the horrible severity of his dislocated thumb.
Still, despite fears that he may not play again this season, he comes right into the Saints' starting lineup against Harlequins on Friday night. Curry suffered a hamstring injury in England's defeat to Ireland in March, but he is expected to make a comeback off the bench in Sale's match against Newcastle.