luni, 7 mai 2018

World Rugby and half truths.

I was pondering whether to write a piece about REC eligibility scandal but it was just too much chaos and no information from reliable sources. It is not much different after nearly 2 months since the scandal broke out after Belgium - Spain.

This topic was hotly debated on various websites and social media and I won't insist much on it. 

Briefly, from what I gathered from various sources which posted about this topic, I am convinced that Spanish, Romanian and Belgian players are not eligible therefore all were breaching Regulation 8. It would be a matter to distinguish between various particular factors of each case. 

There have been two major rumors about the World Rugby investigation. The first was that the three Unions would only get fines. Many raised eyebrows thinking to the recent disqualification of Tahiti from RWC Qualification and many jumped in the "fines are not enough bandwagon". 

However, at a glance, there are significant differences between the two cases. Tahitian players were not eligible from start and did not have any ties with the respective Union. The Tahitians claimed that Tahiti is part of France thus residency requirements was not necessary and this is a situation which resemble more with Belgian case where they were not eligible in the first place.

The Spanish players (Belie, Fuster) and Romanian one (Fakaosilia) "were eligible" (quotes!) as they have either ancestry ties or fulfilled the residence period in Romania. The problem is they were previously captured by France and Tonga respectively. The devil is in details but these subtle differences may weigh in the final decision which is at the discretion of 3 judges, two from High Court of England and president of South Africa highest court of law.

The second rumor come 4 days ago from a Georgian source quickly quoted by a Rugger.Info, a rugby website for ex-Soviet countries. A detailed article can be found here. According with this source, the decision will be:

Belgium will be disqualified for breaching player eligibility laws in RWC qualifiers.
Romania will be disqualified for breaching player eligibility laws in RWC qualifiers.
Spain will be disqualified for breaching player eligibility laws in RWC qualifiers.
Russia has been cleared and will be confirmed as Europe 1.
Germany has been cleared and will become the second placed side behind Russia.
Portugal will play against Germany with the winner officially becoming Europe 2.
Samoa will play the winner of Europe 2 in a home-and-away RWC Play-Off.

If this is true than there's definitely been a leak and an official decision is to be expected after 10th of May when the Independent Committee is expected to issue a ruling at Dublin.  

But Georgian article may be very well fake news. The only way Georgia would know about this is either if the panel (which contains only English & South African judges) had given their decision to Rugby Europe or to all relevant member unions. To do that they would have had to have made a decision, and if they've made a decision then they would have already released it. It does not make sense why a Georgian official have this decision unless it was leaked from a Russian source as Georgia is not part of the qualification to RWC 2019. 

Until now there is nothing certain and the outcome could be very different compared with the two hearsay that arose until now. One thing is certain, World Rugby have its part of guilt by not being able to provide a database of the players who are locked for a certain Union. The debate who and why should be punished/disqualified/fined or whatever is endless. What I want to point in this article is something else and spring to my mind few days ago when World Rugby sent an email to announce a data breach of accounts from

Reading this mail I remembered a rumor on one of the sites that are looking at Tier 2 teams in particular.

source: forum

And than I remember how this eligibility scandal come out around 25th March (evening) and 26th March (early morning). These are snapshots of the source news about eligibility issues in RWC qualification process, the very first information on Internet about this scandal.

First one was Lemoine, Uruguayan coach of Germany during a show with an Uruguayan journalist at evening time in Europe.

Interesting part is that Lemoine says that the Qualification process might be influenced although ineligible Belgian players were not in the team that played versus Spain but only played against Germany therefore the result couldn't have been overturned based on Belgian players' ineligibility. The result of Belgium Spain match would have stand and only the Belgian win versus Der Adlers would have changed the standing.

It would have only influenced the outcome of the duel to avoid relegation between Belgium and Germany, not the RWC qualification process.

Spain, Romania and Russia won their matches versus Belgium therefore no need to change anything. 

Worth saying Lemoine is Uruguayan and comes from the poster team of Tier 3 which already made it to RWC knocking-out Canada in the process. Uruguay does follow Pichot's development model based on franchise squads as opposed developments based on club leagues. So does Brazil and that is why they got tests against Unions much better placed in rankings. He dislike the eligibility based on ancestry or residency and was the main figure who pushed for this reform which was a half win for him.

Next morning, Odessa based rugby portal Rugger.Info published an article about alleged lack of eligibility of Romanian Tongan-born Sione Fakaosilea, citing sources "close to Russian Rugby Union."

Conveniently, eligibility issues sparked at about the same time from two different sources, aiming at two different Unions. Hearsay about officials of World Rugby or of national Unions (I am looking at you, Russia!) knowing the eligibility issues from before the REC 2017-2018 were heard but nothing come up in media until 25th - 26th March 2018. For instance, Fabien Grammatico case who played a match for Spain in 2015 while he was captured by France Sevens. Although it is a notorious fact, there is no World Rugby judicial decision on this breach of Regulation 8 up to present days. 

This is still complicated by the fact that World Rugby seems to be incapable of maintaining accurate and open records (emphasis added) of which players have been definitely "locked in" for eligibility purposes. True, Spain, Romania, Belgium are liable for breaching of regulations but World Rugby should know enough about what low budgets these Unions operate on to realise they'd struggle in these areas, a responsibility World Rugby don't want to take ownership of no matter they're best placed and funded to meet such requirement as they can't run a piss up in a brewery

There's no excuse why an accurate and open database of International players is not provided by the administrators of Rugby Union. We hear from years about growing the game, expand into new markets, World in Union and all the jazz. But do they realize along with greater power come greater responsibility?

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