Romania book World Cup place as Spain fume at Romanian ref
Ireland's World Cup group was completed yesterday as Romania booked their place in the tournament - but only after Spain were left incensed by the officiating in their 18-10 loss to Belgium, a result that ended their hopes of automatically qualifying for next year's Rugby World Cup.
Questions following the final whistle centred on the appointment for the fixture of Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu and two Romanian assistant referees, with Spain's players angrily confronting the referee at the final whistle and sarcastically applauding his performance, leading to Iordachescu being escorted from the field by security. The appointment of Iordachescu was made by Rugby Europe, rather than governing body World Rugby, with reports suggesting that Spain had asked for the Romanian officials to be changed given the possible outcomes of the fixture in Brussels. Belgium fly-half Vincent Hart went on to kick six penalties, scoring all of his side's 18 points.
"The selection was made ahead of the start of the competition by the people in charge," Rugby Europe said in a statement.
The result means that Romania qualified ahead of Spain for next year's tournament in the Europe 1 slot - joining Ireland plus Scotland and Japan in Pool A - having accumulated three more points than Spain in Rugby Europe's Championship.
Spain captain Jaime Nava apologised for the conduct of his players at the final whistle, but stressed that his team were dismayed after having been "eliminated by external factors."
"I'm the captain and I would like to apologise for what happened with the referee," Nava said. "The image at the end of the game does not represent the sport nor the values of this team. It must be understood however, we've lost part of our dream.
"I don't want to think that rugby [has been fixed] to put us out. When we were assigned Romanian officials, we were shocked. But this is rugby, the values are assumed. The dressing room is down, sunk. For sure, today rugby has lost."
Spain coach Santiago Santos was also heavily critical of the referee in his post-match comments. "We weren't allowed to play, the referee kept stopping the game at every moment," he said. "The difference between penalties against us and for us was huge."
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Spain must now try to qualify by beating Portugal, with the winner facing a two-legged play-off against Samoa for the final spot in Pool A.