Spain want Rugby World Cup qualifier replayed as Romanian referee is pulled from Challenge Cup tie


Spain have asked for their controversial defeat to Belgium to be replayed after lodging a formal complaint to both World Rugby and Rugby Europe.

It comes after incensed Spanish players confronted Romanian referee Vlad Iordăchescu following the final whistle of their 18-10 defeat in Brussels — a result which saw them miss out an automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Iordăchescu was due to be part of the officiating crew for the upcoming European Challenge Cup fixture between French Top 14 rivals Pau and Stade Francais on March 30, but has since been withdrawn by the EPCR for security reasons.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Romanian Rugby Federation explained: “One of the teams is using Spanish national team players and also there is a geographical proximity to Spain.”

The controversial result in Belgium ensured that Romania secured a ticket to Japan at Spain’s expense, with the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) claiming that their side had suffered several refereeing injustices at Iordăchescu’s hands during the Rugby Europe Championship fixture.

While World Rugby revealed it has contacted Rugby Europe (the tournament’s organisers) to “understand the context of events”, Spain has requested that they be granted another chance to qualify for the global showpiece.

“The Federation hopes World Rugby will allow the game to be replayed, given that the image of rugby has been damaged by this game,” the Spanish body said on Tuesday.

One of the main sources of Spanish frustration was a penalty count that weighed heavily in the hosts’ favour, and the Federation later said it highlighted “19 refereeing decisions” it considered to harm their team during the course of the match.

It was also revealed that the FER had asked for the Romanian officials to be replaced last month, recognising that the competition between the two countries for one automatic World Cup place represented a “conflict of interest”.

“The fact that the referee is Romanian and that the same Romanian federation has interests in the result of this match breaks the required impartiality,” the FER continued.

The governing body also cited World Rugby’s decision to pull assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen from Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam clash with England “for less apparent reasons of bias.”

Spain still have a chance of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1999, but must go through the playoffs to do so. This means a showdown with old nemesis Portugal for the chance to play Samoa for a place at the tournament.

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