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.
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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).
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England’s group decider against France on Saturday has been cancelled due to the approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis in one of the most extraordinary days in 32 years of World Cup history.
Each team will take two points from the abandoned Pool C showdown at International Stadium Yokohama and New Zealand’s encounter against Italy in Toyota City has shared the same fate.
Still under review, however, is the critical meeting between Scotland and Japan which is also being staged in Yokohama.
If that game does not go ahead, the Scots will be automatically eliminated while the tournament hosts reach the quarter-finals for the first time. The Scottish Rugby Union has released a statement demanding the match be played under contingency plans.
Hagibis has been described by the Japanese Metrological Agency as “violent” and has the capacity to cause widespread destruction around the Tokyo region.
Satellite images of the extreme weather event displayed at World Rugby’s press conference on Thursday reveal it is the size of Japan and shows no sign of deviating in its path or decreasing in magnitude.
"Today we have taken the very difficult decision to cancel two Rugby World Cup pool matches"— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 10, 2019
World Rugby COO and #RWC2019 Tournament Director Alan Gilpin gives an update regarding the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on this weekend’s pool matches at Rugby World Cup 2019. pic.twitter.com/YHns1B1iyS
It dwarfs Typhoon Faxai which brought Tokyo to a standstill for the day of England’s arrival in Japan, delaying their exit from Narita Airport by six hours and leaving a million homes without power, killing three people and injuring scores more.
World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin stated that the governing body’s hand was forced by the danger posed by the Category 5 super typhoon, which is on course to hit mainland in the early hours of Saturday.
“Based on this morning’s advice, Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest of 2019 and highly likely to cause disruption in the Yokohama, Tokyo and Toyota area, including public transport shutdown,” Gilpin said.
“As a result of this independent advice, we have taken the difficult and right decision in the affected areas.
“As you can imagine the decision has not been taken lightly and is in the best interest of safety as a priority.
“All fans will receive full refunds. We are continuing to review Sunday’s matches and making sure they are played as scheduled.
“We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first. They will be entitled to a full refund on their match tickets.— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 10, 2019
“Assessment will be made after the typhoon has passed. We are advising all fans in Toyota, Yokohama and Tokyo to stay inside on Saturday.
“We looked pretty exhaustively at all the options. Important to note is that where we are is in accordance with what we said we would do before the tournament.
“Moving teams round on this scale and being able to deliver safely the exit of 12 teams….we couldn’t guarantee contingency plans consistently. If we can’t do it for all, we can’t do it for any.”
The first cancellation of a game in nine installments of the World Cup was preceded by feverish planning but attempts to move games to Oita – the setting for England’s quarter-final – proved logistically impossible.
Confusion even reigned in the hours immediately before official confirmation with World Rugby stating the games had not been cancelled even as Eddie Jones made frantic plans to take his squad out of Tokyo.
England are now heading to Miyazaki – the setting for their pre-tournament camp which is on the same island as Oita – knowing they and France had already qualified for the last eight.
“I think the Japanese have a saying – shogun-hi – we can’t control it. It’s not something you can control. This is the situation,” Jones said.
“I think it’s a wonderful World Cup. You can’t help typhoons, we would all like to think we’ve got the power above and beyond what’s on the world at the moment, but we don’t and these things happen and you just ride with it.
“We are excited about the prospect of having great preparation for the quarter-final now.
“We’ve got some leeway over the next three days and so we are off to Miyazaki for a short pre-season camp and then we are off to Oita.
“Who would have thought we would have two relatively easy games, one tough game and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final. So someone is smiling on us – the typhoon gods maybe?”
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