DUBLIN - World Rugby is looking into the appointment of a Romanian referee for a crucial match between Spain and Belgium that determined whether Romania qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Spain's surprising 18-10 loss in Brussels on Sunday meant Romania advanced to the World Cup through a second-place finish in the Rugby Europe Championship. Spain would have qualified with a win.
The referee for the match, Vlad Iordaschescu, had to be escorted from the field by security after Spain players angrily confronted him. The two assistant referees were also Romanian.
World Rugby, which does not appoint match officials for Rugby Europe Championship qualifiers, says "it is in contact with Rugby Europe to understand the context of events relating to the Belgium v Spain match in Brussels on Sunday."
Spanish rugby officials made an official complaint over the performance of Iordachescu in the defeat to Belgium.
Spain's rugby federation said it had warned the referee commission of governing body Rugby Europe about appointing Iordachescu to the game.
"Romania needed Spain to lose in order to go to the World Cup, evidently, a Romanian referee was not ideal for this game," said a statement on the organisation's website.
"The federation will present a complaint to Rugby Europe, copying World Rugby, so that the Commission of Referees can review the video of the game and determine if the referee deliberately favoured Romania's interests and, if that is the case, take action."
The statement also condemned the reaction of "some of the players who could not contain their feelings" after the defeat.
Rugby Europe responded by saying the appointment of Iordachescu was made independently.
"Rugby Europe has always operated the highest standards of match official selection whatever the competitions," said a statement on the organising body's official website.
"As for other international major competitions, referees’ appointments for Rugby Europe Championship have been made ahead of the competition by an independent and neutral skilled committee.
"It has been reviewed and confirmed during the tournament based on referees’ performance at international level.
"While we appreciate that this is a subject of high-emotion, it would be inappropriate to comment on match official performance before the usual full review has been undertaken."
Spain will now need to beat Portugal in a playoff and then win a two-legged tie against Samoa in order to reach the World Cup.
If they beat Portugal but lose to Samoa they will play in a four-team repechage in November in a last attempt to qualify for the competition.
Spain coach Santiago Santos also criticised Iordachescu in his post-game news conference.
"We weren't allowed to play, the referee kept stopping the game at every moment," he said.
"The difference between penalties against us and for us was huge. When we were trying to come back in the game the play kept on being interrupted. I said to one of the players that Spain didn't lose today, rugby lost."