The rapid strengthening of Typhoon Hagibis is being watched closely by meteorologists, who are predicting it will be by far the biggest of storm season in the region and is threatening to make landfall on the lower part of Japan, with the possibility it may affect the Ireland v Samoa game in Fukuoka which could have a bearing on the outcome of Scotland’s Pool A. After facing Russia on Wednesday the Scots play hosts Japan in Yokohama on Sunday.
Tournament rules state that any pool match which cannot be played on the date set will be ruled a 0-0 draw with two points given to each side.
If that was to occur on Saturday it would mean Ireland (who are on 11 points to Japan’s 14 and Scotland’s five) would be eliminated if the Scots beat Russia and then Japan, though it appears that World Rugby have made plans to move the game from Fukuoka, possibly to Oita, if needs be.
Townsend was asked about the issue after making 14 changes from the side who beat Samoa in Kobe last Monday for Wednesday’s match against Russia in Shizuoka ahead of the four-day turnaround to the potential decider against Japan.
“My first thought was that it was called Typhoon Haggis, obviously it’s not,” he said.
“We came off the training field today and obviously we were made aware of it. It was passed around the bus pretty quickly, it’s a super typhoon as our doctor, James Robson, calls it.
“He’s an expert on many things outside the medical sphere, one thing being the weather. He showed me a map with its form developing.
“It’s something that’s always a possibility throughout this month in this part of the world. A couple have already skirted past Japan, but this could come into play over the weekend.
“I don’t think it will be a factor for our game on Wednesday, but perhaps we will get the tail end of it in Yokohama on Sunday.”
With little chance of the storm causing major problems as far up as Yokohama, Townsend stressed that it changes nothing for his players, who need to win their last two pool games as well as possible.
“The Ireland game can’t be postponed, it has to be played that day,” he continued. “If it can’t be played that day then it’s two points for each team. Whether it can be played in another venue, I’m not too sure.”
“But listen, we have to win our next two games to qualify. That would not change if the Ireland-Samoa game ended up in a draw.”
Irish media are, understandably, getting slightly edgy about the prospect of a tournament they came to with hopes of winning being ended by a force of nature, but management expressed confidence that the matter will be dealt with.
Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell said: “World Rugby has been in touch with us and they’re as keen as we are to get this game played.
“I believe there is a contingency plan in place but I think there’s updates every 24 hours. We just get on with our day job and try to best prepare every single day. We’ll see what comes of that.”
A World Rugby statement said: ""We are monitoring Typhoon Hagibis, which is currently developing off the south coast of Japan.
"The latest modelling from our weather information experts and the Japan Meterological Agency, indicates that the typhoon is tracking in a north-westerly direction and could bring high winds and heavy rain to southern Japan on 12 and 13 October.
"While it is too early to determine the exact trajectory and impact, if any, of the typhoon at this early stage, as per previous typhoon warnings, we have a robust contingency programme in place in the event adverse weather looks likely to impact fixtures.
"We will continue to closely monitor this developing situation in partnership with our weather information experts, local authorities, transport providers and the teams, and will provide a further update tomorrow. Fans are advised to monitor official Rugby World Cup channels for any updates."
A major typhoon wreaked havoc on Tokyo just over a week before the tournament was set to start and there have been a couple of near misses since, including Scotland’s opener against Ireland in Yokohama and the France v USA match in Fukuoka, when predicted storms failed to materialise in significant strength.
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