International Rugby
Cyprus denied Rugby World Cup chance
ESPN Staff
April 15, 2013
Cyprus have little reason to celebrate having been denied the chance to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup © Cyprus Rugby

The Cyprus Rugby Federation (CRF) has expressed its disappointment at the International Rugby Board's (IRB) decision to deny them a chance to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

Cyprus hit the headlines last month when they set a new world record of 18 consecutive Test match victories on their way to the top of the FIRA/AER European Nations Cup Division 2C table but have since been dealt a body blow by the sport's governing body who have ruled that they cannot participate in the qualification process for the World Cup because they are not full members of the IRB.

The Moufflons, as they are known, are favourites to cement their place at the top of the Division 2C table when they tackle Hungary this weekend. CRF officials were hopeful they would then be cleared to take on the top side in Division 2D in the first round of European RWC qualifying on May 4 having done all they could to fulfil the membership requirements. But they appear to have failed to convince the IRB and that honour now looks set to fall to Hungary or Slovenia as the next highest-placed full member in Division 2C.

Lawrence Vasiliades, president of the CRF, claims it will have a huge impact on the development of the sport in the country. "The CRF regrets that the IRB has taken this decision which we believe will have severe and detrimental effects on Cyprus rugby, especially due to the economic and continuous crisis that has affected the nation recently," he said in a statement. "It is a well know fact that sports will be directly affected by the economic crisis and as such the participation of Cyprus in the biggest rugby event in the world would have been a way to curb the inevitable downgrading of rugby events and development in Cyprus."

Vasiliades also revealed that two development events had already "fallen as casualties of the economic crisis" and he urged fans to rally around. "We hope that the continued economic crisis will not adversely affect Cyprus rugby and we call on the supporters which are the soul of rugby to keep supporting us in any way possible."

He did not have to wait long for the wider rugby community to act with an online petition launched in the hope of forcing the IRB into a re-think and allowing Cyprus to take part in the European qualifying that kicks off next month. There is hope with Greece having been granted full membership on a probationary basis last year despite meeting all membership criteria while their case has also attracted support on Twitter with Samoan international Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu among those to question the decision.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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