Scotland’s Rugby World Cup future has been thrown into a whirlwind of confusion as “Super Typhoon” Hagibis makes its way to the Japanese mainland with increasing ferocity.
Governing body World Rugby has called a press conference for noon local time on Thursday (4am Scotland time) to address the developing situation, which could see the Scots eliminated from the tournament without a ball kicked in the much-anticipated final Pool A match against rampant hosts Japan at a sold-out Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday.
Gregor Townsend’s side set up what is now a quarter-final shoot-out between the two sides after running in nine tries to hammer Russia 61-0 in Shizuoka.
But the match has now been cast into doubt as the Category 5 storm - the largest of Japan’s typhoon season which has meteorologists wide-eyed at the force of its escalation - is now forecast to bear down on the Tokyo-Yokohama area over the weekend. England and France are due to meet in the same stadium on Saturday.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, speaking after the win over Russia, said: “I checked the weather app this morning, about eight hours ago, and it did look like it was heading into Tokyo this weekend, unless it has changed since then.
“It is a few days away and it could miss the Tokyo area, or it could still go there and obviously we’ll be getting updates from World Rugby in the next two days as to what the contingencies are.
“I’m sure that alternative venues and arrangements are being looked at not just for our game but the other games that could be affected by it, England and France play in the same stadium the night before. I know it was getting looked at for the Ireland game as well when the forecast was that it was going to Fukuoka.”
A variety of rumours are swirling around, with the SRU adamant that it has “no comment at this stage”.
There had been talk that the England v France game could be moved hundreds of miles south to Oita but English media have reportedly been told to backtrack on that line. Reports in the French media claim the fixture has already been cancelled.
With both those teams already in the quarter-finals - although the outright Pool C winner was still up for grabs - that would be a far less incendiary call than doing the same for the Scotland-Japan clash, which has so much riding on it.
Understandably the Scotland camp’s focus was honed in on the Russia match but The Scotsman understands that urgent calls were being made to World Rugby after Townsend completed his media duties.
Tournament rules state that pool matches unable to be completed on the scheduled day are deemed a 0-0 draw with two points awarded to each side, which would end Scotland’s participation.
It is understood that Scotland were open to a venue switch to the indoor Misaki Stadium in Kobe, where they beat Samoa 34-0 last Monday, but a change of location presents huge logistical problems for what has always been one of the most anticipated games of the pool stage.
Transport networks could be hugely affected if the typhoon strikes with the ferocity predicted and many Scotland fans are flying in specifically for the Japan match in Yokohama, and hopefully on to the knock-out stages.
Given the extraordinary circumstances and the stakes involved, it could be that the authorities relax their rules and push the game back to Monday.
Typhoon Hagibis is set to vastly eclipse the earlier Typhoon Faxai, which wreaked havoc on the Tokyo area a couple of weeks before the tournament started, killing three people, injuring 147 and causing mass power outages, evacuations and transport chaos.
For all that the impact of extreme weather on the Rugby World Cup looks like being significant this time after a couple of narrow escapes, the main concern will rightly be for the safety and well-being of the people who are currently waiting anxiously in the mega-storm’s path.
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