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Russia reach the World stage after trio are punished

By Duncan Bech

Russia have automatically qualified for next year's World Cup after Spain, Belgium and Romania were penalised for fielding ineligible players.

An independent committee sanctioned the offending nations, docking points to force a revision of the 2018 Rugby European Championship table, which also determines entry into the global showpiece in Japan.

It sees Russia replace Romania in second place, resulting in their elevation into Japan 2019 behind Georgia, who had already made it through on the strength of their performance at the last World Cup.

Spain had hoped for a reprieve following a World Rugby investigation into the circumstances of their loss to Belgium, but the independent panel has chosen to dock all three teams points, subject to appeal.

The judgment means Russia join Ireland, Scotland and Japan in Pool A while Germany and Portugal will clash for the right to face Samoa in a final eliminator for World Cup qualification.

A World Rugby statement read: "While mistakes were not made in bad faith by Rugby Europe and some participating unions, World Rugby is extremely disappointed with the unfortunate and avoidable events."

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