The rugby players' union has called on World Rugby to tighten up on its regional tournaments

International Rugby Players (IRP), the official players’ representative body, has called on World Rugby to take more control over global tournaments, after the fallout from the recent Rugby Europe Championship row.

IRP also called for greater transparency around the Rugby World Cup qualification process, aligned with enhanced accountability from Regional Associations.

This follows World Rugby’s announcement earlier this month that the controversial  Rugby Europe Championship match between Belgium and Spain, which it had already decided should be replayed, had also shown up player ineligibility issues that warranted further investigation.

Spain’s unexpected defeat by Belgium meant they would have to go through play-offs involving Portugal and highly-rated Samoa to keep alive their qualification hopes for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

It also meant that Romania were confirmed in the second European qualification slot behind Georgia.

The controversy was sparked by the fact that a Romanian referee, Vlad Iordăchescu, was left in charge of what turned out to be a vital match for his fellow countrymen – Spain’s pre-match request for a change of official was not taken up by the organisers.

During and after the match Spanish players remonstrated angrily with Iordăchescu over perceived injustices in his officiating, and the official request for a replay by the Spanish Rugby Federation was upheld by World Rugby.

An additional complicating factor in this was the fact that Rugby Europe's President is Romanian International Olympic Committee member Octavian Morariu.

Spain took exception to the refereeing of Romanian Vlad Iordăchescu in a Rugby Europe Championship match that is to be re-played ©Getty Images
Spain took exception to the refereeing of Romanian Vlad Iordăchescu in a Rugby Europe Championship match that is to be re-played ©Getty Images

“We support World Rugby’s efforts to eradicate any perceived manipulation of fair play,” the IRP Chief Executive, Omar Hassanein, said.

“This investigation highlights the need to closely monitor the activity of regional associations, particularly around Rugby World Cup qualification matches.

“Players, especially at Tier Two level, sacrifice a lot to follow their Rugby World Cup dream and, if integrity is undermined, it will erode the trust which exists between players, administrators and fans of our sport.

“The players in this situation deserve better than this.”

In its statement, the IRP said it welcomed World Rugby’s decision to form an independent disputes committee to examine issues around the Rugby Europe competition.

“We have seen how damaging it can be to the reputation of other sports when questions about integrity have been raised and are not dealt with properly,” added Hassanein.

“Competitions at all levels of the professional game need to be administered with the same high standards to preserve the integrity and values of our sport.”