There was rejoicing in the Spanish camp when the national team qualified for the 2023 World Cup earlier this year, and immense despair when the team learned that he had in fact been disqualified from the show tournament for placing an ineligible player during two European Rugby Championship matches. .
Gavin van der Berg was drafted into the Spanish squad for two matches against the Netherlands, provided that the leading rower born in South Africa is qualified to play for Los Leones. This presumption was based on the fact that his club team, Lexus Alcobendas Rugby, had falsified documents indicating that Van der Berg had completed a three-year consecutive stay in Spain, in fact spending enough time outside Spain. .
After investigating the matter, World Rugby grounded Spain with 10 competition points against the Netherlands, causing Los Leones to fall from second to fourth, which cost them both an automatic ticket to the World Cup and a chance to win. play in the overhaul competition, which will decide the final qualification of the tournament.
To make matters worse, it was the second time in a row that Spain had originally qualified for the World Cup just because of eligibility problems to see if they were eliminated.
What distinguishes this year’s disqualification from the previous one, however, is that when Spain was eliminated from the iteration in 2019, the mistake was firmly on the unions – who deliberately set up ineligible players. This year, the only mistake of the unions was not to take extraordinary care – but no deception was played in their favor, only ignorance. The primary error is elsewhere.
But if the spectacle that was Spain’s recent match with the Classic All Blacks in Madrid is something that can be done, World Rugby will lack a huge trick by not reconsidering Spain’s omission of the 2023 World Cup.
More than 40,000 spectators came to Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night to witness an epic clash between the Spanish national team and some of the best New Zealand players in the past. The game itself was a thriller, with the Classic All Blacks tour triumphing 33:26 after a great Los Leons comeback, but it was the passion and excitement of the fans that the game’s administrators had to take note of.
Despite the fact that Wanda Metropolitano was only two-thirds full, the fans present produced noise comparable to what you would hear during huge tests at Twickenham, the Principality Stadium or the Stade de France.
Rugby in the Iberian Peninsula is growing rapidly, and Spain has shown on the pitch that there are few better parties in mainland Europe – apart from first-class countries such as France and Italy. If World Rugby is trying to expand and expand the game, then they could do a little better than take the World Cup to Spain, given the already apparent passion for the sport in the country associated with its proximity to such as France and the United Kingdom.
Instead, Spain probably won’t even appear in the competition next year.
While it is right to send a clear message to the trustees that things in the Spanish Rugby Federation need to change (and these changes appear to be happening), Los Leones is being prosecuted – for the second competition in a row – for reckless off-field.
“I remember starting to cry,” said Alvar Gimeno, a Spanish center RugbyPass from his enthusiasm for Los Leones, which secured second place in the European qualifiers behind Georgia. “It was an emotion I couldn’t explain, the feeling was like an explosion.
“We were really, really happy and we had fun all week before Georgia and enjoyed being part of the group. We were at the World Cup.
“Now … it’s hard.”
“We did everything we could to get there,” added teammate Gonzalo Vinuesa. “Someone did something terrible – something that is the opposite of rugby [stands for] in Spain – this has led us to be excluded from the World Cup as a team and as a country. It’s very, very difficult. “
Van der Berg has collected only 50 minutes of rugby for Spain in winning the Netherlands in the last two years (the only time he spent in the camp with the party), came down from the bench in 2021 in the battle 52: 7 and this year 43-0 banging. It is safe to say that even without Van der Berg’s contribution, Los Leones would have managed to win comfortably in both matches.
“He was with the team for two weeks – only two weeks he played,” Vinuesa said. “He wasn’t really part of the team.” He’s playing in a Spanish competition, so we knew him, but that’s it.
“It doesn’t make sense, but it does.”
Gimeno and 21-year-old Vinues are likely to have the opportunity to represent their nation at the Rugby World Cup in the future (although Gimeno is now focusing on an internship in New Zealand to recharge his batteries) – but for some devoted followers, 2023 is the last chance to play get a flashy tournament in the game.
“There are a lot of people who thought they would retire in 2023 after the World Cup, but now I don’t know how the team will be in a year,” Vinuesa said.
While Spain questions the World Rugby’s ultimate goal of being re-admitted to the tournament in 2023 – and is willing to go through as many goals as needed to get Los Leones to the World Cup – there is little chance that the governing body will support the game. to their decision, especially given what happened before the 2019 event.
Although there is little chance of a reversal of the World Rugby decision, Spain will seize this chance and fight to the bitter end.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” Vinuesa said.
“I have no hope,” Gimeno added. “Maybe there’s a small chance, so we’ll fight it … But I think we’re out.”
All indications may indicate that Los Leones will not take part in the 2023 World Cup – but it is not just Spain that will suffer. The global audience has been robbed of the opportunity to see one of the most exciting developing countries take part in the World Cup for the first time since 1999 and to witness the continued growth of the game in the wider Europe.
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