Russia have qualified automatically for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in the place of Romania, one of three teams to suffer a points deduction for fielding ineligible players.
World Rugby similarly punished Spain and Belgium following a prolonged independent review of the tournament’s qualification process.
The decision means Russia join Six Nations champions Ireland, Scotland, Rugby World Cup hosts Japan and a fifth side, to be determined, in Pool A at next year’s tournament.
Russia will also be opponents for Japan in the opening fixture at the event’s 49,970-capacity Tokyo Stadium on Sept 20, 2019.
Romania had previously qualified as ‘Europe One’ for next year’s tournament, having finished above Spain in the Rugby Europe Championship. Subsequent complaints from multiple federations playing in Rugby Europe over potential player eligibility breaches prompted the review.
The points deductions also means that Germany have replaced Spain as the second-ranked side in Rugby Europe Championship.
The outcome of that has led to Romania, Belgium and Spain being deducted five tournament points for each Rugby Europe fixture in which they fielded an ineligible player.
As a result, Russia moved into first place and earned Rugby World Cup qualification as Europe One.
The points deductions also mean that Germany have replaced Spain as the second-ranked side in Rugby Europe Championship qualification behind Russia. Germany will now face Portugal for the right to play Samoa, with the winner of that contest then qualifying for the World Cup, also in Pool A.
Romania’s one ineligible player was named by the review as Sione Faka’osilea, a centre who has won 13 caps for the country since his Test debut in March 2017.Faka’osilea previously played for Tonga Sevens, which binds him to play internationally only for Tonga under World Rugby Regulation Eight.