Rugby

2019 Rugby World Cup – Super Typhoon causes chaos to schedule

A Typhoon is on its way to unleash its power on Japan, and is affecting not just the residents, but also the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as some crunch fixtures have been already postponed – with potentially more to come.

Such is the magnitude of this typhoon – nicknamed Hagibis – it is known as a ‘Super’ typhoon – with winds expected to reach not far short of 200mph when it hits landfall on Saturday.

Residents have been told to stay indoors and Japanese airlines have already cancelled many of their incoming and outgoing flights.

The timing of this weather could not have come at a worse time for the Rugby World Cup, as the Pool phases are reaching their final stages, with many teams still battling for qualification.

At time of writing, the England v France game, along with the New Zealand v Italy fixture, both scheduled for Saturday, have been postponed – with both teams receiving two points. No decision has been taken as yet for the crunch showdown between Japan & Scotland, which is due to take place on Sunday.

There was an option for these games to take place in Oita – off the predicted path of the weather – but logistical issues in terms of teams locating to the destination, as well as fans having to travel in what is being called the worst typhoon Japan will experience this year, meant that the authorities took the decision to cancel the games and award the according points.

This means that whilst the French and English teams were both assured of progression to the Quarter Finals, the French will be forced to settle for the runners up spot – and arguably the harder path – with England taking top spot. With a win, the French would have won the Pool. England wont be too disappointed with the decision – avoiding the potential for a loss and, crucially, injuries.

It also means that, whilst highly unlikely, the Italians have no chance of beating New Zealand by the necessary scoreline and progressing themselves. Italy will finish in third spot, whilst the 2 points will give New Zealand enough to overtake South Africa and win the Pool. This was almost inevitable anyway, but the Italians will feel more than aggrieved at being denied the opportunity – however remote their chances of success were.

But it is the Japan v Scotland game where a postponement will cause the most controversy. Scotland (above) crushed Russia 61-0 in their third Pool A game, a result which meant that they could still qualify for the Quarter Finals with a victory over Japan. A postponement would secure Japan’s progress through to the knockout phase, along with Ireland. World Rugby have shown by their decision to not move or delay fixtures that they are unconcerned by the effect these non played games have on Pool standings – but Scotland will be desperate to play the fixture with qualification at stake. Hagibis is expected to have done its worst by Sunday – but, again, with travel disruptions and the path of the weather not known until it happens, the Scots are more than aware the game could be cancelled without any due consideration given to their standing.

Tournament Director Alan Gilpin, when asked about the potential for the Japan v Scotland game to be delayed, gave little hope for the Scots : “We have looked again at the potential to apply some consistency to our contingency plan across all the games and we treat all the matches fairly. Italy are in the same position as Scotland are in. It is a huge match and we would be loving to play that game. But we won’t treat that match any differently.”

Safety and preservation of life of course takes precedence over anything else – but for games to be cancelled this way with no other contingencies or options in place to preserve the integrity of the tournament is a huge shame and criticism of the Organisers. We can only hope the typhoon passes causing as little disruption as possible – both for the people of Japan and the teams who have prepared for this for years.