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Last week, all Spain prepared for the fiesta that would officially name the rugby team the winner of the European 1 spot in the 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup. This would mark Los Leones first return to the RWC in twenty-years (1999).
However, an unexpected and controversial 18-10 loss to Belgium (NB: Finally found; a nickname for the Belgium XV is the Black Devils) has cancelled any celebration. Spain will meet rival Portugal with the winner to face Samoa in a home and away contest for the RWC Playoff spot.
Belgium traditionally finish at the bottom of the six-team European Championship, historically, bouncing back and forth from relegation to promotion to and from a third tier European championship. The Black Devils notched only one victory in 2018 and were not expected to defeat a Spanish fifteen that needed the game-winning points to vault over Romania for the RWC 2019 slot.
When Spain defeated Romania earlier 22-10 in Madrid in front of 15,000 fans, the nation perceived that the lead would hold until the end of season. Then came the Belgian defeat, and the ensuing hullabaloo stemming from the fact that the referee and his two assistants in the match came from...Romania! (Belgium scored all points on six penalty kicks.)
For the record, it is Rugby Europe and not World Rugby that made the Romanian referee appointment. Both rugby organizations vowed to review the match but it is unlikely that either will accede to the Spanish Rugby Federation's demand for a replay.
Romania, which have played in every World Cup, will join Ireland, Scotland, and Japan in Pool A. The winner of that future Playoff spot will represent the fifth, and final side in the pool. In addition, Romania will play Japan in the RWC's opening game in Toyota Stadium on September 20, 2019.