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Typhoon Hagibis plunges Rugby World Cup into crisis as matches are cancelled

A sign outside of the Yokohama Stadium at the Rugby World Cup in Japan
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A sign outside of the Yokohama Stadium at the Rugby World Cup in Japan
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A sign outside of the Yokohama Stadium at the Rugby World Cup in Japan

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Stu Forster/Getty Images
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A sign outside of the Yokohama Stadium at the Rugby World Cup in Japan

England’s game against France and New Zealand’s clash against Italy are called off

In Depth
Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 8:47am

The Rugby World Cup has been thrown into turmoil by a series of cancellations that threaten the integrity of the tournament. 

See related 
Rugby World Cup fixtures and TV guide: pool matches, UK start times, results, knockout schedule, final date

Organisers announced on Thursday morning that England’s pool C match against France on Saturday has been called off because of Typhoon Hagibis, as has the pool B clash between New Zealand and Italy. 

A decision on whether Scotland’s pool A match against Japan, scheduled to take place on Sunday in the same stadium as England’s cancelled fixture, will be made on the morning of the match. The same goes for Samoa’s game against Ireland on the same day. 

It’s reported that tournament organisers have considered and rejected impractical plans to relocate the matches or delay them 24 hours.

England top pool

The two cancelled games will be deemed 0-0 draws with both teams receiving two points.

England and France had already qualified for the last eight and Eddie Jones’s side now go through as pool winners. For Italy, however, they are denied what would have been a very slim chance of beating the All Blacks to take their place in the quarter-finals. 

Should the Scotland and Ireland matches be scrubbed then the Irish and Japan will progress to the knockout stage from pool A.

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Friday 11 October 
  • Pool D: Australia vs. Georgia to be played as scheduled 
Saturday 12 October 
  • Pool A: Ireland vs. Samoa to be played as scheduled  
  • Pool B: New Zealand vs. Italy - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each)
  • Pool C: England vs. France - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each) 
Sunday 13 October 
  • Matches will be played as scheduled and an assessment of venues will take place after the typhoon has passed

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Typhoon season

It is the first time in the history of the Rugby World Cup that a match has been cancelled, and it has plunged the tournament into an unprecedented crisis. 

It also raises questions about the wisdom of staging the sport’s showpiece event in a country often tormented by typhoons at this time of year. 

Japan has been a magnificent host but ultimately the Rugby World Cup is about rugby, and now thousands of fans who have paid significant amounts of money to travel halfway round the world will spend the weekend bunkered down in their hotel room as Japan is battered by 170mph winds.

Incredible tournament

Asked if he regretted staging the Rugby World Cup in Japan, tournament director Alain Gilpin told reporters: “What we have seen over the last three weeks absolutely in every respect vindicates the right decision to be here in Japan. 

“It’s been an incredible tournament on and off the field and we always knew there were going to be risks. It is rare for a typhoon of this magnitude to cause this impact this late on the typhoon season.”

That’s unlikely to be of much comfort to out of pocket supporters or the Italian squad. Should Scotland be sent home at the expense of the hosts and their weather, the integrity of the tournament will not recover.

Calamity

The New Zealand Herald described the chain of events as a “calamity”, while The Times went for “farce”. 

Whatever word one uses, there’s no doubt that the credibility of the World Cup is now in the balance. 

The great fear is that this won’t be the last typhoon to strike. Typhoon Faxai hit Tokyo shortly before start of the World Cup and was the most powerful in 60 years, leaving one million homes without power and causing extensive damage.

More to come?

Ten days ago there were fears that France’s pool match with the USA in Fukuoka would be cancelled because of an approaching typhoon.

In the end it missed the city but with the typhoon season running until the end of the month who’s to say the knockout stages won’t be affected?

The ramifications for the tournament organisers are huge. The Times says that World Rugby “could lose at least £15m because it will be liable to pay ticket refunds to up to 144,000 fans”. 

There will also be a significant financial impact on broadcasters, particularly in the UK and France which have paid for the rights and has sold advertising around a mouth-watering clash between the two old rivals.

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For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues free
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Well rested

Then there is the fact that England, France and New Zealand (and possibly other nations) will have a week off ahead of the quarter-finals. 

Wales, for example, have just come through a physically shattering encounter with Fiji, and have to play Uruguay on Sunday, which like Australia vs. Georgia, isn’t affected by the weather. 

Six or seven days later they will be action again, against England and France squads that are refreshed and raring to go. 

On the other hand, the coaches of those two sides, and New Zealand, might argue that the enforced rest puts brake on the momentum that they’ve been building during the pool stage.

Reactions to the cancellations

World Rugby 

“The decision to cancel matches has not been taken lightly and has been made in the best interests of public, team, tournament personnel and volunteer safety, based on expert advice and detailed weather information.”

John Mitchell, England defence coach

“I think people are making it bigger than what it actually is. It’s just weather.” 

Martin Samuel, Daily Mail

“A tournament that began on 20 September, with 28 matches scheduled for October, was always courting trouble. The organisers cannot say they were not warned. They have, quite literally, reaped the whirlwind.”

New Zealand Herald

“Rugby World Cups have survived all manner of scandals… so strangely it is an act of God, a weather phenomenon beyond human control, that is threatening to damage the credibility of the tournament in a way the hunt for the fictitious Suzie and the mysterious potion she allegedly dropped in the All Blacks’ tea in 1995 never did.”  

Paul Hayward, The Daily Telegraph

“Central to every calculation was the Japan-Scotland game, on which the integrity of the competition hinged. It should never have been valid to consider cancelling this match and condemning a team in pool A to a weather-related exit. Scotland and Japan were both entitled to the same level of justice.” 

Today’s back pages 

‘Tryphoon’ leaves Rugby World Cup in chaos

Remaining RWC pool fixtures 

Pool fixtures conclude on 13 October and the quarter-finals will be held on 19-20 October. All times below are UK. 

Pool A 
  • Saturday 12 October: Ireland vs. Samoa (11.45am; Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka; ITV)  
  • Sunday 13 October: Japan vs. Scotland (11.45am; International Stadium, Yokohama; ITV) 
Pool B 
  • Saturday 12 October: New Zealand vs. Italy - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each)
  • Sunday 13 October: Namibia vs. Canada (4.15am; Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi; ITV) 
Pool C 
  • Saturday 12 October: England vs. France - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each) 
  • Sunday 13 October: USA vs. Tonga (6.45am; Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka; ITV) 
Pool D 
  • Friday 11 October: Australia vs. Georgia (11.15am; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka; ITV 4)  
  • Sunday 13 October: Wales vs. Uruguay (9.15am; Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto; ITV)

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For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues free
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