Typhoon threatens England and Scotland games
Pool deciders could be cancelled or switched Townsend’s side face exit if match called off
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