Spain qualified for its second Rugby World Cup, and first since 1999, on March 13.
However, World Rugby announced on Monday that it will convene an independent judicial committee to investigate a probable infraction of Regulation 8, concerns a player’s eligibility for internationals, by Spain during World Cup qualifying.
“World Rugby was made aware of a potential breach concerning one member of the Spanish national men’s senior team,” it said in a statement. “Having concluded initial enquiries, the international federation believes a formal independent review is warranted. The Spanish Rugby Union has been fully cooperative throughout the initial enquiries.”
Gavin van der Berg, a South African-born front-rower, is said to be the subject of the investigation.
He made his debut on December 18 in Amsterdam, when Spain defeated the Netherlands 52-7 in the Rugby Europe Championship, which also served as World Cup qualification.
Van der Berg came on in the second half and scored a try.
He came on as a second-half substitute again on February 5th, when the Netherlands were defeated 43-0 in Madrid.
Van der Berg landed in Spain in 2018 and had to stay for three years to qualify for residence before making his debut on December 18.
However, he reportedly returned to South Africa for four months in 2019, and again in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain was notoriously kicked out of the 2019 World Cup due to an eligibility violation. The selection of Mathieu Belie, Bastien Fuster, and Fabien Grammatico for matches in 2018 deprived the Spaniards a place in the Far East finals.
World Rugby investigated them again two years later, in 2020, over the pick of John Wessel Bell. The South African winger claimed to have qualified through residency, but obtaining documentation establishing his residency in the country proved problematic.
The FER (Spanish Rugby Union) have also issued their own statement, which states: “As World Rugby has made public this Monday and previously informed the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER), the highest body in our sport is going to examine a possible irregularity in the eligibility of a XV del León player during the Rugby Europe Championship 2021-2022, qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in France.
“As indicated in its statement, World Rugby, which appreciates that the FER has collaborated from the outset by providing all the requested documentation, has appointed an independent committee to resolve this open file following a claim filed by the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR).
“At the FER we are convinced that things have been done correctly and therefore we can only wait for the resolution of the independent committee appointed by World Rugby and chaired by Nigel Hampton and assisted by Pamela Woodman and Frank Hadden.
“Like World Rugby, the FER will not make any comments until the conclusion of the process.”