Spain have been kicked out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup amid Los Leones fielded an ineligible player, allegedly with the help of a forged passport, in qualifying.

Spain qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1999 after a dramatic win over Portugal in March.

However, a 10 points deduction has lead to missing out on the 2023 tournament in France.

An independent disciplinary panel appointed by World Rugby found that the South Africa-born prop Gavin van den Berg appeared for Spain in two matches, against the Netherlands in 2021 and 2022, without having qualified on residency grounds.

The panel ruled that Spain should be docked five points a match and fined £25,000. Romania will replace Spain.

It is the second consecutive World Cup cycle that has been dogged by problems over ineligible players – with Spain also caught up in the controversy surrounding the 2019 tournament.

At the time Romania, Spain and Belgium were all found guilty, leading to Russia reaching the World Cup. Spain were given a £50,000 suspended fine, which they are now liable for. Romania join South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and most likely Tonga in pool B at France 2023, with Portugal entering the four-team final qualification tournament.

The Spanish federation who has the right to appeal said the decision was very harsh, as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player’s passport.

It is believed that part of the issue centres around how Van den Berg split his time between Spain and South Africa, an issue made more complicated by travel restrictions, due to Covid-19.

A statement from the Spanish federation said: “As this very harsh sanction occurs as a result of an alleged forgery of the aforementioned player’s passport, the Spanish Rugby Federation continues with the extraordinary disciplinary procedure initiated at the time.”