World Rugby has taken the unprecedented step of cancelling two World Cup matches due to extreme weather.
England’s clash with France and New Zealand’s showdown against Italy will not be played due to an incoming storm described by the Japanese Meteorological Agency as “violent”.
Here the PA news agency examines the questions surrounding the decision.
Why has World Rugby aborted the game?
The approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis left little alternative. The region’s most powerful cyclone of 2019 threatens to cause widespread devastation to the Kanto region which encompasses Tokyo and Yokohama. It is due to hit mainland Honshu – Japan’s biggest island – on Saturday and could persist into the following day before moving north. Typhoon Faxai, which was far smaller than Hagibis, brought public transport to a standstill long after it had passed when it struck at the start of the tournament.
"While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played,it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers & other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon"— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 10, 2019
Could the games have been moved?
The option of playing the matches in Oita, where two quarter-finals are being held, was explored until it became clear it was logistically impossible. World Rugby also declared that the risk to travelling teams, fans and volunteers is too great with Hagibis looming. Questions have been asked over the depth of contingency planning, but World Rugby says that by cancelling games it has acted in accordance with rules established pre-tournament.
But why did they stage the World Cup in typhoon season?
It is the only window available. Since 1999 it has been staged from September to November and due to congestion in the rugby calendar there is no other space for it. Taking the World Cup to Asia for the first time was a bold move and until Hagibis escalated into a category five super typhoon on Tuesday the tournament was a triumph, unique and different to anything before it. Japan is the third biggest rugby economy behind France and England and World Rugby deemed that braving stormy season was a risk worth taking. Now it is being forced to defend the decision, which it says it does not regret.
Sunday 13 October— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 10, 2019
· Every effort is being made to ensure Sunday’s matches will be played as scheduled. A thorough assessment of venues will take place after the Typhoon has passed before a final decision is made on Sunday morning.
What happens now?
All teams in cancelled matches receive two points each. England and France had already qualified for the quarter-finals but the demise of the Pool C decider has denied France the platform to advance as group winners, distorting the integrity of the tournament. Italy could have progressed had they beaten New Zealand, but it would have taken an upset of staggering proportions for the All Blacks to be knocked out. Instead, the real repercussions are being felt by Scotland in Pool A.
More World Cup heartache for Scotland?
Four years after they were dumped out in the quarter-finals by a dubious refereeing decision, Scotland could now lose out to an extreme weather event. If their game at International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday is called off, the automatic two points awarded to Scotland and Japan will see the hosts progress. Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Rugby Union is demanding the game be played under a contingency plan.
Scottish Rugby fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarter-finals on the pitch, and will be flexible to accommodate this.”— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 10, 2019
[Scottish Rugby statement following World Rugby position on decisive Pool A fixture v Japan]
Who has lost the most?
Fans, teams, World Rugby, Japan – everyone has paid some form of price. Tournament revenues are insured against cancellations but there is the reputational damage to World Rugby. England and France fans are beginning to pour into Tokyo so spare a thought for them, even if they will have their tickets refunded.
Some teams will enter the quarter-finals without having played for two weeks, others will have been robbed of their do-or-die assault on the knockout phase. But the highest price of all may be paid by Japan, which is in the crosshairs of a cyclone that could cause billions of pounds worth of damage and put lives at risk.
All fans with tickets for a cancelled match will receive a full refund for the face value of their match tickets.— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 10, 2019
Can the World Cup recover?
Undoubtedly. It has been a superb tournament so far, producing some classic matches. New Zealand and South Africa fought out a group game worthy of a final while Japan’s upset of Ireland will never be forgotten. The host nation has offered a fascinating break from the traditional rugby circuit and an enthralling knockout phase could yet see it emerge as one of the great World Cups.
Provided by Press Association Sports
Reaction from England’s head coach Eddie Jones after two Rugby World Cup games including the Pool C decider between England and France have been canceled because of the anticipated impact of Typhoon Hagibis and tournament organizers aren’t ruling out further cancellations.
Japan’s weather agency is warning the powerful typhoon may bring torrential rain and strong winds to central parts of the country between Saturday and Sunday, during the last round of World Cup group games.
The England vs. France game at Yokohama near Tokyo and the Pool B game between New Zealand and Italy in the city of Toyota on Saturday have been canceled on safety grounds.
It’s the first time that games have been canceled at rugby’s showpiece tournament. All games cancelled because of weather are logged as scoreless draws and each team will get two competition points.
The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening danger. Airlines and train services anticipate cancellations.
Joe Schmidt has admitted the uncertainty around Typhoon Hagibis has created a “distraction” for Ireland’s crucial World Cup clash with Samoa.
Head coach Schmidt is confident Ireland can quickly focus back in on Saturday’s Pool A decider in Fukuoka, that will now definitely beat the weather.
Typhoon Hagibis is due to rip through Tokyo, Yokohama and Toyota City at the weekend, with World Rugby already cancelling New Zealand versus Italy and England versus France.
Scotland’s clash with Japan on Sunday remains under threat – and a cancellation there would see Japan top Pool A and Ireland only able to finish second.
A second-place finish would set Ireland up for a quarter-final against back-to-back world champions New Zealand, but Schmidt is determined not to get ahead of himself with Samoa looming on Saturday.
“There is a distraction; there was a lot of talk among the players post-training today when we found out about the cancellations,” said Schmidt.
“Because any time there’s something up in the air or something is unknown – especially when two games have already been abandoned – you get players are going to talk about that because it’s newsworthy and influential once games are being cancelled.
“But we’ve just got to make sure our game gets finished with the right result for us, and I’m sure Samoa are going to out to make that as difficult for us as possible.
“We’re not really having too many conversations with World Rugby; we had a few earlier in the week because at one stage the typhoon pattern was somewhat different from what it is now.
“But for us we just have to be business as usual. We can’t control what happens with the Japan-Scotland game, so on Saturday it’s up to us to get our business done as best we can.”
Fit-again Robbie Henshaw will partner Bundee Aki in the centres for Ireland’s Samoa clash, with Jordan Larmour slotting in at full-back and Tadhg Beirne at blindside flanker.
Rob Kearney was deemed not quite ready having missed a section of training on Tuesday, while Peter O’Mahony is handed a rest with a seat on the bench.
Scotland’s match with Japan will be played on Sunday in Yokohama or not at all.
A cancellation would see the result inked in as a scoreless draw, and both teams awarded two points.
That would leave Ireland unable to leapfrog Japan at the top of the pool. Schmidt’s men would be able to match Japan’s points tally, but would fall behind the Brave Blossoms owing to the hosts’ 19-12 victory over the Irish.
Ireland boss Schmidt refused to be drawn on whether cancellations damage the World Cup’s integrity, saying: “Again it’s not something I can control, I only know what we need to do, and we need to get out and get a result.
“It’s a situation nobody wanted to have. I know there are several teams who are massively disappointed their games have already been abandoned.
“With the amount of people travelling to games there are supporters and certainly players disappointed.
“Some players are playing in their last World Cup, there’s no bigger game than getting to play against some of the biggest players in the world game, and they are missing that opportunity.
“So do I think that from that perspective that’s disappointing, but from our perspective all we can do really is what we can control, and as much as possible that’s what our full focus is on.”
Ireland team to face Samoa in Fukuoka On Saturday
J Larmour (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), J Kleyn, P O’Mahony (both Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carbery, A Conway (both Munster).
Provided by Press Association Sports