Refereeing review

POZNAN, Poland, – Rugby Europe says it regrets the controversy surrounding the performance of the officials in the Belgium-Spain game, as the body began its analysis of the match on Saturday following calls by Spanish rugby authorities for a replay.

The Spanish rugby federation appealed to World Rugby and Rugby Europe for a replay after its officials were left fuming over the performance of Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu in the 18-10 defeat by Belgium, which allowed Romania to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup at Spain’s expense.

“(Rugby Europe referees’ selection) Committee’s members in attendance proceeded to the review of the game and compared their analysis with those of Rugby Europe and World Rugbysupervisors,” Rugby Europe said.

“The assessment will be provided to Rugby Europe Board members and to World Rugby, in accordance with their request.”

Some ugly confrontations broke out at the final whistle as members of the Spanish coaching staff tried to restrain their team. Referee Iordachescu was pursued by furious Spain players and several irate supporters and needed to be escorted off the pitch by competition officials.

Victory over Belgium on a mud-caked pitch in Brussels would have secured Spain second place behind already-qualified Georgia in the Rugby Europe Championship standings and a ticket to next year’s World Cup in Japan.

“A Conference Call involving Rugby Europe Board members will be held on Monday 26th of March in the evening, to keep them up to date,” Rugby Europe said.

“The current situation is a matter of regret for Rugby Europe, who would like to express its willingness to communicate in a transparent way, to avoid damaging allegations for the image and values of our sport, the teams and the refereeing.”

Spain’s rugby authorities have claimed there are four valid arguments for a replay of the match.

Spain now face an arduous series of playoff games if they are to get through to the game’s showpiece tournament for the first time since 1999.

An online petition calling for the match in Belgium to be replayed has gained almost 40,000 signatures.

England’s World Cup winning former coach Clive Woodward, France’s back row Marco Tauleigne, Argentina’s flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and ex-Namibia forward Jacques Burger were among those, who backed the petition on change.org. The petition states: “We plea to the largest authority of rugby worldwide (World Rugby) to set the example in the world of sports and request for a replay of the match between Belgium and Spain with an independent referee team from a tier-1 rugby nation.”