World Rugby says it aims to make a decision on whether Scotland’s storm-threatened clash with Japan on Sunday can go ahead as early as possible.
Typhoon Hagibis is due to strike the eastern coast of Japan on Saturday, with the 1400km-wide super cyclone predicted to cause widespread damage.
Reports have suggested an inspection of Yokohama’s International Stadium – where the climax to Pool A is due to be played – will to take place at 6am Japan time on the morning of the game (10pm Saturday BST), with a decision due two hours later.
But the tournament organisers say they will only be able to make that call once it is safe enough for inspections to take place.
A World Rugby spokesman said: “Our primary consideration is the safety of everyone.
“We will undertake detailed venue inspections as soon as practically possible with an announcement following as soon as decisions are made in the morning.
VENUE INSPECTIONS UPDATE: TOKYO, 12 Oct— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 12, 2019
Further to the process outlined at Thursday’s press conference, the following statement has been issued by World Rugby relating to the process of venue inspections and decision-making ahead of Sunday’s final pool matches.
“Our message to fans continues be stay indoors today, stay safe and monitor official Rugby World Cup social and digital channels.”
Hagibis is set to become Japan’s biggest storm in 51 years and is expected to have a major impact on the country’s transport and rail networks.
It could play a part in whether the game is allowed to go ahead, with a closed door match still a possibility.
World Rugby must make a final decision on whether the game goes ahead no later than six hours before the 7.45pm (11.45am BST) kick-off time.
Scotland must beat the Brave Blossoms to qualify for the quarter-finals. If they match is called off, it will be declared a draw and Gregor Townsend’s team will exit the competition.
Provided by Press Association Sports
Know more about Sport360 Application
Gregor Townsend has dropped his captain Stuart McInally for Scotland’s typhoon-threatened clash with Japan after opting to start Fraser Brown at hooker.
McInally was given the armband ahead of the World Cup but has struggled to produce his best form so far.
Brown, who started at flanker last Wednesday as the Scots thrashed Russia 61-0, is among three players who start for the second time in four days, with wings Darcy Graham and Tommy Seymour also retained.
Greig Laidlaw will now lead out the team at the International Stadium while Sean Maitland, who scored a vital double against Samoa in the Scots’ first Pool A win, misses out with a groin injury.
The Scots need to beat the hosts to seal their place in the quarter-finals, but there remains serious concern the game will not go ahead as Super Typhoon Hagibis prepares to wreak havoc across Japan’s eastern coast this weekend.
A decision on whether the Dark Blues’ final Pool A game goes ahead will be made on the morning of the match.
Townsend said: “The opportunity to face the hosts in such a decisive Pool match will be a unique occasion and should be a great spectacle.
“Games of this magnitude don’t come around very often in a playing career so we will be giving it everything to make sure it is a memorable match.
“It’s taken a real squad effort from our players here in Japan to put us in a position to play for a place in the quarter-finals, having risen to the challenge of what’s effectively been knockout rugby since the second round of our Pool.
“The entire group has featured in our past two Tests, both of which have been clinical and professional performances.
“It was great to see players get the opportunity to play in this World Cup on Wednesday and it looked like they enjoyed the experience.
“The effort invested in defence, support play and clearing has been encouraging and has put a lot of pressure on the opposition.
“A few players have pushed hard for selection with the form they’ve shown in training and in the last two games, and it’s now down to this group of 23 men to build on this momentum and squad togetherness to deliver a winning performance against Japan.”
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