The final round of Pool games in the Rugby World Cup has been thrown into chaos, after it was confirmed that a severe Typhoon now looks very likely to make a direct hit on the Tokyo region. Typhoon Hagibis has been moving menacingly closer to the southern regions of Japan and is on course to bring destructive winds and torrential rains that will cause flooding through the weekend. It means England's game with France and New Zealand's with Italy have both been cancelled, unprecedented in the World Cup's 32 year history. Of perhaps greater significance are the games between Japan and Scotland, Ireland and Samoa as these teams are in the tightest pool. At the moment they're both scheduled to be played but should Japan v Scotland be cancelled, Japan would go through & the Scots would go home by virtue of pool standings.
World Rugby Chief Operating Officer and Tournament Director Alan Gilpin said in a statement..
"This is a complex and dynamic situation which we have been monitoring extremely closely with the assistance of our weather information experts. We are now in a position to accurately predict the likely impact of Typhoon Hagibis on Rugby World Cup fixtures this weekend. While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday's matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon".
"As a result we have taken the decision to cancel some matches in order to ensure the safety of all involved. It is the right thing to do and comes with the support of all stakeholders including the teams. We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed but we trust they will appreciate their safety must come first. They will be entitled to a full refund on their match tickets. Our message for all fans in Japan for the World Cup is to heed all official advice, stay indoors throughout Saturday and do not attempt to travel on the day"
"Every effort is being made to ensure Sunday's matches will be played as scheduled. A thorough assessment of venues will take place after the Typhoon has passed before a final decision is made on Sunday morning".
It must be tough for the people in charge having to take these decisions, especially as its the sport's global showpiece. But, safety of everyone and everything else comes first, and there was no other decision viable than to cancel affected games. However, there could have been a viable alternative had relevant contingency plans been put in place sooner. I cant help but think that the World Cup is 4 years in the making and knowing this time of year sees Japan encounter these weather events that specific "what if" scenarios weren't considered, like for example setting aside an extra week just in case an event like this was to happen. Or relocating the teams and officials for those affected games and playing them behind closed doors such would be the logistical nightmare to relocate all fans at short notice. Maybe something to consider for the next World Cup. You have to feel for the Scots. They don't know if they'll be playing on Sunday and wont know until the day itself, and could even be sent home if their match is off which would be the cruelest way to lose out. However, you have to feel for everyone in Japan, World Cup and non World Cup related, and hope that the Typhoon spares the worst of its fury away from the mainland.