England and Scotland’s World Cup pool deciders this weekend are under threat from one of the most violent super typhoons in recent history, potentially causing chaos for tens of thousands of travelling supporters.
World Rugby may be forced into taking the unprecedented step of cancelling Saturday’s Pool C match between England and France – as well as Scotland’s crucial fixture with the World Cup hosts Japan 24 hours later – with the category five super typhoon headed for Yokohama. Both matches were among the most in-demand among supporters when tickets went on sale.
Any games cancelled due to weather problems are registered as scoreless draws, with both sides awarded two match points, and while both England and France have already qualified for the quarter-finals, it could have huge consequences for Scotland’s Pool A showdown with Japan, which is also takes place at Yokohama’s 72,000-seater stadium. If that match is cancelled Scotland would be eliminated, assuming Ireland beat Samoa on Saturday.
One of World Rugby’s contingency plans is to move both matches to other venues in Japan to ensure they go ahead but that would cause havoc for more than 140,000 supporters across the weekend and prove a huge logistical headache for tournament organisers.
Super Typhoon Hagibis had initially threatened Ireland’s key match against Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday, but has altered its course and is now zeroing in on Tokyo and Yokohama. It has escalated from a tropical storm into a super typhoon with wind speeds estimated at 160mph in one of the most dramatic intensifications of any tropical cyclone since records began. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency it is on course to be the strongest to hit the host nation this year.
“Public and team safety is our No 1 priority,” read a World Rugby statement. “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 …. fans are advised to monitor official Rugby World Cup channels for any updates.”
Last month England’s arrival into Tokyo was delayed by Typhoon Faxai, which left more than 900,000 homes without power, killed three people and injured 40.