SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has made it clear he won’t accept the possibility of Scotland being eliminated from the Rugby World Cup if Super Typhoon Hagibis leads to Sunday’s crunch Pool A finale against Japan being cancelled.
The Scots are now in Yokohama, venue for the scheduled game, but uncertainty remains over their future in the tournament after the sport’s governing body ruled on Thursday that it was “under review” with a decision to be made on Sunday morning.
The matches between England and France in Yokohama, and New Zealand v Italy in Toyota, both on Saturday when the worst of a storm which is forecast to reach a ferocity of “historic proportions” set to hit, have both already been cancelled, with the Italians eliminated as a result.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dodson was forceful and adamant that he wasn’t willing to see Scotland’s World Cup wrecked by a decision which he believes has been made in haste.
“I think there’s alternatives around Japan. The point to me, we are talking about now is not whether the game will take place on Sunday, that will be a purely meteorological issue, the issue will be if it can’t take place then we’re really, really pressing the point that we need to have to get this game delayed 24 hours later,” said the SRU chief.
Dodson insisted that if a decision is made to cancel one of the most anticipated matches of the pool stage, which would result in Ireland and hosts Japan progressing to the quarter-finals, it would not be accepted lying down by the Scottish Rugby Union.
“No, we don’t [accept it],” he said. “I think from our point of view, this is the crux of the matter. The first and most important issue is that we look after the safety of the general public. The second thing is for World Rugby to just simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament.
“We have been preparing for this tournament now for four years, the guys have had over 100 days in camp, we’ve played games already and the fourth game in this particular case is pivotal.”
On what happens next, Dodson said: “We’ve had consistent dialogue in the last three or four days around this with senior people at World Rugby, but World Rugby seem to be determined to stick to its plan that the match is either played on Sunday or indeed it is cancelled, and to have it cancelled and have our ability to progress from this group put at peril, we believe is absolutely unacceptable.
“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion – from a leading QC – that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation.”
Dodson wouldn’t accept that it may now be too late for Scotland to ensure they are not sent on an early plane home without a ball kicked on Sunday.
“We don’t know that – we have to challenge it. But we should be talking about this from a rugby perspective, this is about the game and the rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby,” continued Dodson.
“The common-sense approach to this is to play the game 24 hours later in perfect safety where we can make sure that the pool stages are completed, and the sporting integrity of the tournament remains intact.”
Current weather forecasts are suggesting that the Tokyo-Yokohama area will be battered on Saturday but conditions could clear by Sunday, when the Japan-Scotland game is set to kick off at 7.45pm local time (11.45am BST).
Dodson also refused to accept that the prospect of a venue switch or postponement was already gone.
“At this stage it is too early to say,” he said. “My point is that World Rugby will be listening to what is happening around the world – I think opinion on social media is rising all the time about the injustice of this. I feel for our Italian friends as well, they had no participation in any of the decisions and they are on their way home already, and my view is that we’re not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste.”
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