Scotland’s chances of remaining in the Rugby World Cup appear diminished after the SRU was strongly rebuked by governing body World Rugby for insisting that their decisive match with hosts Japan must be played.
The SRU has been on the front foot since it emerged that the game could be cancelled due to the impact of Super Typhoon Hagibis.
Precedents have been set with the cancellation of today’s England-France match at the Yokohama International Stadium which is also due to stage Japan v Scotland tomorrow. The New Zealand-Italy game scheduled for Toyota today has also been scrapped due the storm, described as being of “historic proportions”.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson insists that every effort should be made to ensure Scotland’s match should be played. If it is cancelled, under tournament rules it would be deemed a 0-0 draw with two points to each side, meaning Scotland would in all likelihood be eliminated, assuming Ireland beat Samoa in Fukuoka today.
Suggestions last night were that a stadium inspection will take place at 0600 Japan time on Sunday (2200 Saturday in the UK), with a decision expected at 0800 (midnight UK).
The SRU dug in yesterday, threatening legal action over what it perceives as a breach of the “participation agreement” signed off by all 20 teams.
That hasn’t gone down well with World Rugby, who issued an extraordinary statement last night, just as the Category 5 mega-storm was brewing.
“It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments at a time when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday’s matches to take place as scheduled, and when there is a real and significant threat to public safety owing to what is predicted to be one of the largest and most destructive typhoons to hit Japan since 1958,” said the statement,
“Along with the 19 other teams, the Scottish Rugby Union signed the Rugby World Cup 2019 terms of participation, which clearly state in Section 5.3: ‘Where a pool match cannot be commenced on the day in which it is scheduled, it shall not be postponed to the following day, and shall be considered as cancelled. In such situations, the result shall be declared a draw and teams will be allocated two match points each and no score registered’.”
Dodson says the World Cup’s “sporting integrity” must be maintained and believes he has the law on his side.
He said: “We took legal advice that challenged the view, and then we got a QC from a leading sports practice in London, Nick De Marco, and he backed the fact there is flexibility in the schedule.”
Dodson added: “We engaged with World Rugby as soon as we knew this [cancelling the game] would be a possibility on Wednesday night.
“We talked to them and they explained to us that the game would be in jeopardy, simply because of the size of the storm, then if it did go to Monday, it would be cancelled. They also told us the England-France game would be cancelled. We absorbed that information, looked it through, and we saw it was based on the participation agreement.”
The SRU is focusing its line of argument on regulation 3 of the participation agreement which states that, when it comes to “Delayed, Postponed, Abandoned and Cancelled Matches” powers are available to organisers in exceptional circumstances.
Dodson wants the Scotland match rescheduled to Monday if the game cannot be played tomorrow.
However, the World Rugby statement continued: “As outlined during Thursday’s media conference in Tokyo, the core principle that could enable us to explore a departure from the terms of participation, is a fair and consistent application of the rescheduling for all teams in a safe environment for teams, fans and essential match services.
“The sheer predicted scale and impact of the typhoon, and the complexity of team movements for eight matches, meant that an even-handed application was just not possible without putting safety at risk. Therefore, it was the fair and correct decision for all teams to maintain the position outlined in the terms of participation.
“It would be inappropriate to make further comment at a time when we are fully focused on the safety of everyone and this weekend’s matches.”