Scotland fans are facing a nailbiting weekend after Rugby World Cup officials said a decision on whether the team’s key game against Japan will go ahead will be made on Sunday morning as a typhoon threatens to cause havoc in the country.
Rugby World Cup organisers have already ruled that two games scheduled for Saturday - the Pool C decider between England and France in Yokohama and the Pool B game between defending champion New Zealand and Italy in the city of Toyota - will be cancelled because of the potentially devastating impact of Typhoon Hagibis.
If the game is cancelled, the game will be declared a draw and Scotland will not advance any further in the competition, with Japan put through to the quarter finals for the first time.
However, officials have said that they will wait until Sunday to decide on the Japan-Scotland match at Yokohama, which is scheduled to conclude the group stage that night. Rugby World Cup said no matches would be postponed or rescheduled and the result of cancelled games would be logged as 0-0 ties.
“In principle, we make the decision six hours before kickoff, but we would like to make this as early as possible on Sunday,” Japan Rugby 2019 chief executive Akira Shimazu said. “We will look at the damage, we will consider carefully. We will make every effort so the spectators will see the match.”
The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned that the typhoon may bring torrential rain and strong winds to central parts of the country over Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend of World Cup pool games. It has urged people to take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening danger. Airlines and train services anticipate cancellations in what is expected to be the most destructive typhoon of 2019. It was generating winds up to 168 mph yesterday morning but was expected to weaken over cooler waters as it nears Japan’s main island.
A Scottish rugby fan who travelled to Japan with his family for the World Cup has described the decision to cancel the matches as “complete nonsense”.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Peter Sellar, 47, from Peebles, who is in Japan with his wife, Elodie and their three children. “I don’t know how many years this has been in the making and to have a contingency plan in place for nothing?
“Even if you play the games behind closed doors or put them back by a day or so. Three-, four-, five-day turnarounds are standard. We can all do it.”
Organisers said they had explored all options, including moving the Yokohama and Toyota games to alternative venues, but holding the games was not logistically possible, World Rugby tournament director Alan Gilpin said.
“While making every 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, exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon,” Gilpin said. “We’ve taken the very difficult decision but right decision to cancel matches in affected areas.”
Scotland’s only chance of advancing is if the game is played and the team beats Japan by eight points or more - or if they win and Ireland fail to beat Samoa.
Scottish Rugby said it was working to ensure the game against Japan goes ahead.
It said: “Scottish Rugby fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarterfinals on the pitch, and will be flexible to accommodate this.”