Romania, Spain and Belgium found to have fielded ineligible players

Ireland rugby head coach Joe Schmdit will have to alter his 2019 World Cup preparations slightly after Romania were dumped out of the tournament.

The change comes after an investigation led to three teams in the European qualifiers being deducted points.

As a result, Russia replace Romania in Pool A of the tournament in Japan next year alongside the hosts, Ireland, Scotland and the play-off winner.

The investigation was initially set up to determine whether the qualifying tie between Spain and Belgium should be replayed after the Spanish federation made a complaint about the Romanian match official.

They claimed that their defeat to Belgium on the last weekend of the qualifying competition was unduly influenced by the referee, as Romania automatically qualified thanks to that result.

Subsequent complaints to World Rugby from other federations over potential player eligibility breaches led to the set-up of an independent committee which found that the match result should stand but that Spain, Belgium and Romania had fielded ineligible players.

The guilty nations were deducted five points for each fixture in which they fielded an ineligible player which resulted in Russia topping the group and winning qualification as Europe 1.

The deduction also means Germany replace Spain as the second ranked team in the Rugby Europe Championship and they will play Portugal for the right to play-off against Samoa, with the play-off winner also joining Ireland in Pool A.