In a no-holds-barred interview with Midi-Olympique, Spain scrum-half Guillaume Rouet, who has twice now been denied a World Cup shot by player irregularities, could not contain his fury at what he sees as rank incompetence by his union.
Saying that he and several team-mates were now carrying the can twice for maladministration by the Spanish federation, Rouet also scarcely contained his dismay at the actions of Gavin van den Berg, who supposedly forged his passport to satisfy residency eligibility criteria – how complicit the federation was in this is not yet clear.
“We are dejected and very upset,” said Rouet.
“For many of us, it’s happened twice in a row. We qualified on the ground. The bodies at the top have not done their job. It is infuriating, because it is something that we do not control and it is we who suffer the consequences. There is a lot of anger.
“We’re all pretty dejected. We will call each other in the coming hours, but I think they will be in the same state of mind as me, namely, very angry.
“For many of those who experienced it four years ago, it was also their last chance to participate in a World Cup, because age makes it so. It is very sad. We did not lose on the ground, where we did the work. The leaders, unfortunately, no. I am also worried about future generations.”
” It happens once, we can say “it’s a little amateurish, they are not too used to it”.. There, the leaders were warned of what might happen. We see that they have not learned from their mistakes. It’s infuriating.
Asked whether he had had contact with Van den Berg, Rouet was succinct.
“I think it is better not. He was aware of the shenanigans. I don’t want his apology. Either way, the damage is done.”
Spanish rugby’s image was tarnished by 2019 already, but that the same, or similar has happened four years later will leave an indelible stain on the game in the country, just at a tie when rugby is on the up in many developing countries. Rouet’s warning for future generations carried a lot of weight.
“For future generations, what image will we have? Will people want to go play for the Spanish team? For many France-based people, it was very hard to be released each time by the club.
“While we had, finally, gained a little respect from the leaders and clubs, we still go back as clowns now with this story. This is unfortunate.
“Our administrators must also put themselves in our shoes. We have just spent two difficult months waiting for the decision. When there were the first rumours, they told us not to worry, that it was going to be fine, that they had done everything properly. This proves they had not. We are very angry with the Spanish leaders who are responsible for this.
At 35, Rouet’s chances of a World Cup are now all but gone. His understandable anger may yet crystallise into something resembling a run at administration; certainly he is unequivocal: heads must roll at the federation.
“I do not see how, twice in a row, rugby can recover. I think that, inevitably, there will be changes. I hope so, at least, at the level of the leaders who deal with this,” he said.
“After that, I would like Spanish rugby to recover. There are very beautiful generations to come and potential in this youth. I really wish that, one day, they make it to the RWC, so they will tell me what it feels like.
“For me, I have to be realistic, when the next one takes place, I will be 39 years old. I haven’t made the decision yet, but I think this marks the end of my adventure with the Spanish team.
“I will retain the human adventure. I have no regrets about doing this for many years. It allowed me to see something else. I discovered great guys, great friends and that, fortunately, they will not take away from us. I may be naïve, but if I had to do it again, I would do it again.”