Scotland's crucial clash with Japan could be played behind closed doors as decision looms

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend
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Scotland’s bid for a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals could be played behind closed doors if local government authorities decide it isn’t safe for the public to attend the hugely-anticipated match against the hosts after Super Typhoon Hagibis blasted mainland Japan.

A decision is expected to be known in the early hours of the morning UK time after the effects of the storm are assessed.

Media had been briefed that World Rugby should be set to make a decision around 8am local time (midnight UK time) but The Scotsman understands that it may be a couple of hours after that when the Kanagawa Prefecture, the authority that governs the region in which Yokohama, on Tokyo Bay south of the nation’s capital, is the biggest city, whether it is safe for public attendance at the 70,000-capacity International Stadium.

Thousands of Scotland supporters are now in the Yokohama-Tokyo area and waiting for news. For many who have based themselves in Tokyo, train cancellations may prevent them from attending even if public attendance is given the green light.

While not facing the full brunt of the mega-storm, the city of Yokohoma, where Scotland are hoping to play their vital Pool A match against hosts Japan at 7.45pm on Sunday (11.45am BST), was hammered by the strongest typhoon to hit the country in more than 60 years.

The worst-case scenario would be that Rugby World Cup organisers decide to cancel the match, as they have for the England v France and New Zealand v Italy games which were supposed to be held today.

Speaking after naming his team for the game in Yokohama on Friday, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We have chatted as a group that the game is going ahead on Sunday night and that’s why our game hasn’t been called off or moved to another venue.

“The weather is to be good on Sunday. It’s night time as well so that gives us some extra time. It looks as though conditions will be fine to play a game on Sunday.”

Torrential rain and tornado-like winds have been wreaking havoc in Japan today and an earthquake registering 5.7 on the Richter Scale jolted the Tokyo-Yokohama area after striking off the coast.

The BBC reported: “More than seven million people have been urged to leave their homes amid severe flood and landslide warnings.

“Train services have been halted, and more than a thousand flights grounded. One man was killed in Chiba, east of Tokyo, when high winds flipped his car.”

Governing body World Rugby has put the Japan v Scotland game under review until the scale of damage inflicted has been assessed. The SRU has made forceful statements saying it would not tolerate Scotland being eliminated by a match cancellation without exploring options to postpone or switch venues.

World Rugby responded by rebuking the SRU for its comments, pointing to the participation agreement signed by all competing teams. SRU chief executive Mark Dodson addressed the media in Yokohama on Friday and insisted that the union had legal advice which supported its view that World Rugby has leeway when it comes to exceptional circumstances.