Ty­phoon threat­ens Eng­land and Scot­land games

Pool de­ciders could be can­celled or switched Townsend’s side face exit if match called off

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Gavin Mairs

Eng­land and Scot­land’s fi­nal World Cup pool matches are in dan­ger of be­ing can­celled or switched to new venues amid in­creas­ing fears that a su­per ty­phoon will wreak havoc by mak­ing land­fall in Yoko­hama this week­end.

Ty­phoon Hag­ibis es­ca­lated yes­ter­day from a trop­i­cal storm to a cat­e­gory-five su­per ty­phoon with winds es­ti­mated at 150mph, one of the most dra­matic in­ten­si­fi­ca­tions of any trop­i­cal cy­clone since records be­gan. Satel­lite im­ages of the storm re­veal it is around five times the size of Ja­pan, with the eye re­ported to be about 14 miles wide.

The ty­phoon, de­scribed yes­ter­day by the Ja­pa­nese Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency as “large scale [and] large of vi­o­lent in­ten­sity”, had been ex­pected to hit the south of Ja­pan but has changed course and is now due to have a di­rect im­pact on the venue where Eng­land and Scot­land play this week­end. It has left World Rugby ex­plor­ing con­tin­gency plans, and a de­ci­sion is ex­pected to­day on whether ei­ther game will be can­celled or moved to a new venue.

Eng­land meet France at the 72,000-ca­pac­ity Yoko­hama Sta­dium on Satur­day and Scot­land meet Ja­pan in a win­ner-takes-all clash on Sun­day. If Scot­land’s match is can­celled, Gre­gor Townsend’s side would be knocked out of the tour­na­ment, as any games can­celled due to weather prob­lems are reg­is­tered as score­less draws. That would al­most cer­tainly elim­i­nate Scot­land as they would only progress if they beat Rus­sia with a bonus point to­day and Ire­land lose to Samoa – a game not ex­pected to be af­fected by the ty­phoon – with­out se­cur­ing even a los­ing bonus point.

One source said last night that Scot­land’s game against Ja­pan could be re­lo­cated to Oita, in the south­ern­most is­land of Kyushu. There would be less im­per­a­tive to re­lo­cate Eng­land’s match with France, as both sides have al­ready qual­i­fied for the quar­ter-fi­nals. If the game is can­celled then Eng­land would fin­ish top of Pool C as they hold a two­point lead over France.

How­ever, a to­tal of more than 140,000 sup­port­ers who are due to at­tend the games, in­clud­ing tens of thou­sands of Eng­land and Scot­land sup­port­ers who have trav­elled to Ja­pan, were anx­iously await­ing up­dates from the weather fore­cast­ers and World Rugby last night amid fears they could be left with no game to watch or po­ten­tial travel chaos.

World Rugby is closely mon­i­tor­ing the progress of the su­per ty­phoon and is in reg­u­lar con­tact with the teams who could be af­fected by the storm, with con­tin­gency plans be­ing con­sid­ered.

It is un­der­stood that there is no of­fi­cial cut-off point for the game to be can­celled or switched, but teams and sup­port­ers are likely to re­quire at least 48 hours’ no­tice for any changes.

This week­end’s Ja­pa­nese Grand Prix at Suzuka is also in the path of the storm, al­though For­mula One is yet to is­sue a state­ment on whether it has a con­tin­gency plan.

Eng­land’s coach­ing staff last night in­sisted they were pre­par­ing for the game as nor­mal and were await­ing news from World Rugby.

“We have no con­trol over the weather and we have to pre­pare for the game and see how it goes,” said Scott Wise­man­tel, Eng­land’s at­tack coach.

“Re­gard­ing the per­mu­ta­tion around the game and shared points, we are just con­cen­trat­ing on play­ing to win. I live in a bub­ble and I don’t know where the game would be played [if it is switched]. One thing I have learnt in Ja­pan is that they pre­pare for the worst and then usu­ally it doesn’t even­tu­ate.”

World Rugby is­sued a state­ment last night and said “pub­lic and team safety is our No1 pri­or­ity”. The state­ment said: “World Rugby, Ja­pan Rugby 2019 and our weather in­for­ma­tion ex­perts con­tinue to closely mon­i­tor the di­rec­tion and strength of Ty­phoon Hag­ibis.

“It re­mains too early to fully pre­dict the move­ment and im­pact of the storm, how­ever, the lat­est mod­el­ling by our weather in­for­ma­tion ex­perts in­di­cates that it is now track­ing north and east and will bring strong winds and heavy rain to Tokyo and sur­round­ing ar­eas on Oct 12.

“Pub­lic and team safety is our No1 pri­or­ity. While we have ro­bust con­tin­gency plans in place for pool matches, such plans, if re­quired, will only be ac­tioned if the safety of teams, fans, and work­force can be guar­an­teed. It would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment on any con­tin­gency plans at this stage.

“We will con­tinue to closely mon­i­tor this de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tion in part­ner­ship with our weather in­for­ma­tion ex­perts, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, trans­port providers and the teams, and will pro­vide a fur­ther up­date to­mor­row.

“Fans are ad­vised to mon­i­tor of­fi­cial Rugby World Cup chan­nels for any up­dates.”

Weather alert: Gre­gor Townsend’s Scot­land could be elim­i­nated with­out play­ing

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