World Rugby joins other sports bodies by suspending Russia and Belarus | Rugby union

World Rugby has joined a growing list of international sports governing bodies by placing immediate suspensions on Russia and Belarus.

The unions from the respective countries have been barred from all international rugby and cross-border club rugby activities until further notice. Furthermore, the Rugby Union of Russia has been suspended from World Rugby membership.

This decision, in line with recommendations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and building on last week’s decision by Rugby Europe to suspend Russia’s home activities in the Rugby Europe Championship, was taken by the World Rugby Executive Committee in order to “protect the rugby family and take a strong stance against the conflict.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, World Rugby reiterated its condemnation of “Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine and the facilitation of this action by Belarus. The global rugby family is united in standing in solidarity with everyone affected by these deeply disturbing events and joins the global community in calling for the restoration of peace.

“The decision has been taken with the interests of rugby’s values of solidarity, integrity and respect at heart. World Rugby also remains in contact with colleagues at the Ukraine Rugby Federation and has pledged its full support to the rugby community in the country.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source close to the Russian national team said that it was a “sad day” for the sport and that “proud athletes who love nothing more than representing their country were being punished.

“There are good people in Russian rugby and no one wants war,” the source said. “Some of the players are worried. It’s a very scary time for everyone. I don’t think anyone thought it would come to this. It’s surreal. We’re all hoping it gets resolved as quickly as possible.”

Three days after Russian troops entered Ukraine, Russia’s Rugby Europe Championship match against Georgia in Tbilisi was cancelled. With two defeats from as many matches, Russia were bottom of the log in Europe’s second tier international competition.

Russia had not yet qualified for next year’s World Cup in France and this suspension effectively ends their hopes of doing so.

A spokesperson for World Rugby told the Guardian: “World Rugby has no Russian sponsorship or planned events hosted in Russia or Belarus. Russia is also not involved in the bidding process for future men’s or women’s Rugby World Cups.”

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Elsewhere the Rugby Football Union has reportedly contacted Fifa to express its opposition to a proposed name-change of the Russian football team which would see both organisations share the initials ‘RFU’.

Fifa had come under criticism for its lukewarm stance against Russia last week, failing to expel its football teams from international tournaments. However, this changed on Monday with Fifa joining Uefa in banning the country from all international and club competitions.

The international governing bodies for ice hockey and curling, as well as Formula One, the National Hockey League and the US Soccer Federation are among those organisations which have already placed sanctions on Russian athletes and events.

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