General view of the International Stadium Yokohama as the Pool C match between England and France is cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. (Reuters)
Shared News| Published: October 12, 2019 12:48:36 am
Typhoon – no, Super typhoon Hagibis, expected to be 870 miles wide, is due to hit Tokyo and Yokohama on Saturday night local time and is forecast to be one of the most violent in recent history. Besides the feared destruction, this has wreaked havoc on the rugby World Cup. A sport that rarely stops even for pelting rains is being threatened by something monstrously more ominous and devastating, at a very critical stage of the tournament. Two matches scheduled for Saturday have been cancelled, and Scotland’s pivotal match with Japan, on Sunday, is in serious jeopardy.
But this has evoked some extreme reactions from the barmy rugger fraternity, with Italy and Scotland most aggrieved. In a candid comment, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen (NZ was to play Italy) even said that canning the weekend fixtures was a “no-brainer”, something that even the famous American could have decided on.
Here’s the gloom-and-doom updates on the Hagibis.
World Rugby under fire
“World Rugby’s failure to properly prepare for Japan’s extreme weather can be revealed with World Cup organisers initially making plans to move England v France and other matches in Yokohama to Tokyo Stadium – just 14 miles away,” Guardian wrote.
England’s Pool C decider in Yokohama against France was cancelled and Scotland’s pivotal match with Japan, scheduled to take place in the same stadium on Sunday, faces the same fate, as Hagibis is due to hit Tokyo and Yokohama on Saturday night local time and forecast to be one of the most violent in recent history. What’s gotten UK’s goat is despite years to come up with extensive contingency plans, with the tournament director, Alan Gilpin, insisting in 2018 that the threat of natural disasters was “a really hot topic for us”, organisers considered the nearby Tokyo Stadium the most suitable alternative to Yokohama. Moving England’s match to Oita, more than 500 miles away on the south island of Kyushu, was explored. Ultimately it was decided that was not logistically viable nor safe for travelling supporters at such short notice. World Rugby has repeatedly insisted it has “robust contingency plans” but Gilpin revealed there were not any in place for Scotland’s game against Japan. While fans will receive a full refund for their match tickets, World Rugby will not reimburse any travel costs. Mutterings over why Oita, or Sapporo – 700 miles north of Yokohama – were not designated as alternatives, have begun. “We always knew there would be risks but it’s rare for there to be a typhoon of this size at this stage of the year,” said Gilpin on Thursday. “We have no regrets.”
SCOTS CRY FOUL
Scotland v Japan will either take place on Sunday or be cancelled. Scotland, who face elimination if the match is called off, insist the match should go ahead, even if it has to be behind closed doors. The Scottish union has also threatened legal action if the match is not played and that sparked an angry response from tournament organisers, accusing the Scots, who need to beat Japan by more than seven points to reach the quarter-finals, of insensitivity given the potential damage to life and property that may be inflicted by what is forecast to be the severest typhoon to hit Japan for 61 years.
“For World Rugby to simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament,” said the chief executive of Scottish Rugby, Mark Dodson. “We were in discussions with them from Wednesday night and they pointed to the participation agreement and that the provision is clearly stated there. We have had two legal opinions, the second from a QC in London, that challenges that stance and unravels World Rugby’s case. Our view is that if the match is called off it should be rescheduled on Monday and that is a view clearly backed by public opinion.”
He carelessly added: “We are not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste.”
Under the tournament regulations, which meant Italy were eliminated when their match against New Zealand in Toyota fell victim to the forecast typhoon, if a pool game is called off it cannot be rescheduled on another day. But Scotland have taken legal advice and may challenge the ruling.
For World Rugby to simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament,” said the chief executive of Scottish Rugby, Mark Dodson, who faced the media after the announcement of Scotland’s side to face the hosts.
“We were in discussions with them from Wednesday night and they pointed to the participation agreement and that the provision is clearly stated there. We have had two legal opinions, the second from a QC in London, that challenges that stance and unravels World Rugby’s case. Our view is that if the match is called off it should be rescheduled on Monday and that is a view clearly backed by public opinion.”
Asked whether Scotland would take legal action if the match were cancelled and the squad flew home on Monday rather than played Japan, he equivocated: “We would have to reflect at that time and consider our options. This is important to us as a nation.” He added, in a careless choice of words: “We are not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste.”
The Rugby World Cup 2019 terms of participation, which clearly state in Section 5.3: ‘Where a pool match cannot be commenced on the day in which it is scheduled, it shall not be postponed to the following day, and shall be considered as cancelled. In such situations, the result shall be declared a draw and teams will be allocated two match points each and no score registered. “The sheer predicted scale and impact of the typhoon, and the complexity of team movements for eight matches, meant that an even-handed application was just not possible without putting safety at risk,” World Rugby said.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE ITALY
Italy head coach, Conor O’Shea, pointed out it would be unfair if Scotland were treated differently to the rest, adding: “We were in a game [against New Zealand] that meant something, even if we had the remotest of chances. You have to trust that the organisers explored every possible opportunity. The right decision was made, one we all knew would be taken if this happened.” Captain Sergio Parisse had earlier raged though. “If New Zealand needed four or five points against us it would not have been cancelled,” said Parisse, who will retire with 142 international appearances after the World Cup. “It is ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made because it isn’t like the fans arrived yesterday. It is ridiculous that there was no Plan B, because it isn’t news that typhoons hit Japan. Sure, everyone might think that Italy versus New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we’d have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team.”
ENG, FRA NOT CARPING
England and France have both adopted philosophical approaches to their cancellation. England and France had already qualified for the quarterfinals, and the drawn result means England finishes top of Pool C and will likely face Australia in the quarterfinals. France, meanwhile, finishes second and is set to play Wales should Warren Gatland’s side defeat Uruguay in Pool D as expected.
England have headed to the south to Miyazaki, where they held a pre-tournament camp, for the weekend. Eddie Jones had initially wanted to use Miyazaki as a base during the tournament, flying in and out to host cities. Guardian suggested some perspective. “There are people living in the suburbs of Tokyo who still do not have electricity due to the typhoon that hit a month ago. Lives were lost and houses were destroyed. Hagibis, which has caused so much disruption to the World Cup schedule, is more than three times the size of the last one. Let’s put rugby to one side for a second. We’re all here living in this micro-bubble of the Rugby World Cup but in three or four weeks we pack our bags and go home. There are hundreds of thousands of people who live here who could be badly affected for the foreseeable future.
…the one thing is that a lot of people back home do not understand the size of this typhoon. It’s not something that we ever see, we get a foot of snow and everything shuts down. This is the largest typhoon seen in Japan for more than a quarter of a century. In the UK it is usually Armageddon over some rain and a bit of frost,” Guardian noted.
“No-brainer. Even man from America (Trump) could’ve decided”
The Pool B match between New Zealand and Italy in the city of Toyota, around 225 kilometers (140 miles) west of Tokyo, which is also expected to be highly impacted by the storm.
“Do we charge on and put people’s lives at risk or do we lead and make a decision that’s around making sure people are safe? It’s a no-brainer,” said New Zealand coach Steve Hansen. “The man from America (President Trump) could even have made this decision.”
“If we’d had a choice, we would have rather played Friday but it wasn’t our choice, it was out of our control. We have to back World Rugby’s decision and if other teams miss out, it’s unfortunate, it’ll be disappointing.”
O’Shea was disappointed his side wasn’t granted a chance to produce an upset. “I’m finding it really difficult. I saw the players’ reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch when it should be on the playing field.
“For the World Cup not to finish in front of the fans on the pitch, in front of the fans watching on TV in Italy, it is a hard day for all of us and difficult to put into words.”