Spain have been disqualified from the Rugby World Cup ©Getty Images

Spain have been disqualified from the 2023 Rugby World Cup after being deducted points over fielding an ineligible player in two matches.

An independent judicial committee appointed by World Rugby reached that verdict after being asked to study a claim by the Romanian Rugby Federation that prop Gavin Van den Berg was ineligible to play for Spain.

"The highest body in world rugby has decided to penalize Spain with £25,000 ($31,000/€29,500) and deduct five points for each of the two games in which this player was lined up,” a Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) statement read.

"While waiting for World Rugby to make the ruling official, this decision means disqualification from the 2023 World Cup in France, a competition for which the XV del León had qualified directly by finishing second in the Rugby Europe Championship 2021-2022.

"As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player's passport, the FER continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time and will shortly call a press conference to offer all the explanations that are required."

Spain had finished second in the Rugby Europe Championship, with unbeaten Georgia having won the event with 44 points.

The Spanish team had won six and lost four of their fixtures to finish with 29 points in the tournament, which doubled as a qualification event for the Rugby World Cup in France.

A 33-28 win over Portugal in March secured one of two automatic places at the World Cup.

Romania finished one point behind Spain on 28 points to secure a spot in the final qualification tournament, with Portugal third on 26.

World Rugby has confirmed a 10-point deduction, so Spain drop to fourth in the six-team standings, ruling them out of competing at the Rugby World Cup.

Romania are in line for an automatic berth, with Portugal advancing to the final qualification event.

Spain had been hoping to compete at the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1999.

This marks the second successive European qualification campaign to be impacted by sanctions over ineligible players.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were sanctioned for fielding ineligible players in qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Spain were deducted 40 points after fielding ineligible players eight times, while Romania and Belgium were hit with 30-point deductions due to ineligible players representing them in six matches.

The sanctions led to Russia qualifying for the Rugby World Cup despite initially finishing third in the standings, while Germany played in the final qualifier but failed to secure a place at the tournament in Japan.