England’s final pool stage match against France and New Zealand’s game against Italy have both been cancelled due to the expected impact of Typhoon Hagibis but World Rugby is hopeful Japan’s key match against Scotland on Sunday will go ahead as planned.
The category five typhoon is set to hit mainland Japan on Saturday, and World Rugby has pre-emptively cancelled the England-France match which was due to take place in Yokohama that evening. New Zealand-Italy, which was due to place in Toyota, has also been cancelled.
As a result, both teams are awarded two points each, meaning New Zealand go through as winners of Pool A and England top Pool C.
Japan-Scotland is also under threat with the match due to be played Sunday in Yokohama, but tournament organisers are continuing to monitor the weather and will make a final decision six hours before kick-off. Scotland issued a statement on Thursday saying: “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.”
But their flexibility is likely to be in vain if the match cannot go ahead in Tokyo. The game will be subject to the same decision-making progress as the other pool matches: either it’s played or it will be cancelled, with no option of postponement or relocation.
World Rugby’s tournament director Alan Gilpin addressed the press on Thursday and called it a “complex and dynamic situation”.
“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 and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon,” Gilpin added.
“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. Our message for all fans in Japan for Rugby World Cup is to heed all official advice, stay indoors throughout Saturday and do not attempt to travel on the day.”
Super typhoon Hagibis, which was swirling some 490 km (306 miles) south-southwest of Japan’s Chichijima island as of 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning, is heading north toward Japan’s main island and could make landfall on Saturday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
England will now head to Mizayaki before journeying to Oita to prepare for their World Cup quarterfinal. England boss Eddie Jones said Thursday: “We found out officially this morning but there were rumours flying around last night and we were glued to our phones. We are preparing for the game and we were in game mode and when it was off, we are in preparation mode. We can’t control it and we are told what to do.”
When asked whether he felt there should have been contingency plans for the cancelled games, Jones responded: “I don’t really have an opinion and all I am interested in is getting ready for the quarter-final game.”
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said the decision to call off their match against Italy was a “no-brainer”. “Everyone knew this was a possibility and we all knew what the process would be if it did occur,” Hansen said.
“When you get a typhoon to the level we’re getting, then safety is the paramount thing, so it’s a no-brainer.”