Failure to meet RWC qualifying standards upsets Cyprus coach Paul Shanks
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 13/04/13 8:39am
Cyprus head coach Paul Shanks has been left "gutted" after his record-breaking side were omitted from the qualifying process for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Cyprus have won a Test record 18 successive internationals - surpassing New Zealand (1965-69), South Africa (1997-98) and Lithuania (2006-10) - and currently top European Nations Cup Division 2C.
They have won all three of their games in convincing fashion - against Austria 54-20, Slovenia 49-8 and Bulgaria 79-10 - and are favourites to overcome Hungary in their final pool game.
The winner of the pool should face the country which tops European Nations Cup Division 2D next month in the first match of the qualifying process for the World Cup in England.
Games against the winners of Divisions 2B, 2A and 1B would follow before a showdown with the third-placed side from Division 1A (which features Georgia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Belgium) for a chance to go into the Repechage. That would pit the European side against a side from Asia or the Americas over two legs for a place in the World Cup.
However despite securing promotion to Division 2B for next year, Cyprus are unable to take their place in the qualifier against Norway or Luxembourg as they are not yet a member of the IRB. Cyprus are able to compete in European competitions as members of FIRA-AER.
Shanks told Sky Sports: "Despite all the records, I am afraid that the IRB has decided that we are not eligible to compete in the knock-out stages of the European RWC qualifiers.
"To say that I am gutted is an understatement, six years hard work down the drain!
"Whilst we still have one game remaining, we cannot be beaten in the league which would have placed us in the qualifying slot in our league."
However the IRB confirmed that Cyprus are unable to take part as they are yet to secure member status.
"A national rugby Union has to be a Member Union of the IRB in order to participate in Rugby World Cup qualifying," said a spokesman.
"Cyprus is not currently of that status, but that is not to say that it will not be in the future if an application is submitted that meets the criteria that Unions must achieve."