- Scotland are still waiting to hear whether their Rugby World Cup clash will be on
- If match with Japan is called off, Scotland will be knocked out of the tournament
- SRU chief Mark Dodson says he won’t allow country to be ‘collateral damage’
- Scotland are ready to take legal action to ensure their vital match goes ahead
SRU chief Mark Dodson says Scotland will not become ‘collateral damage’ of the World Cup
Typhoon Hagibis is being put on par with a category 5 hurricane with 160mph winds expected
TV screens showed the path of the Super Typhoon as the tournament officials addressed issue
SRU chiefs remain on a collision course with World Rugby over their Japan clash will take place
World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin addressed the situation at a press conference
The eye of Typhoon Hagibis is not due to strike until this lunchtime, but the storm continued to rip through the World Cup as nations demanded more answers about cancelled Tests.
The tournament’s credibility was called into question as feelings grew that rich nations have received favourable treatment.
Italy’s campaign has been cut short and Scotland could be the next victims, with World Rugby set to decide by midnight tonight whether to cancel tomorrow’s crunch game with Japan. In an unprecedented move, Scotland wheeled out their CEO Mark Dodson last night who, after legal advice, demanded the Yokohama Test be moved or rescheduled.
‘We took legal advice that challenged the view and then we got a QC from a leading sports practice in London, Nick De Marco, who backed the fact there is flexibility in the schedule,’ said Dodson.
‘The last thing we want to do is get tied up in legal matters but there is now a legal opinion that supports our view that there is flexibility on the scheduling.
‘Right from the get-go, we said to World Rugby: “We will play any place, anywhere”. We will play behind closed doors, we will play in full stadiums. We will travel the length and breadth of Japan. There was no response. There’s been massive amounts of contingency planning going on, but none of it seems to have been enacted.’
A clear bonus-point victory would send Scotland through to the quarter-finals, but they are out if the game is called off.
‘There’s a massive broadcast audience worldwide and we have an obligation to our fans, our sponsors and our partners to make sure we explore every avenue possible,’ said Dodson.
‘We don’t want to get in some sort of legal arm wrestle with World Rugby, we don’t want to criticise World Rugby, but we do believe that we are being timed out in this competition and being timed out is not a comfortable place to be. Scotland will be collateral damage and it is not something we will be prepared to sit back and take.
‘This country has a phenomenal track record of getting things back running once they’ve had major disasters — they are probably the best in the world at doing so. We’re just saying, give them that little bit of time where the sporting integrity of this tournament is not compromised.’ World Rugby responded by saying they were ‘disappointed’ by the SRU threat of legal action and pointed out Scotland signed up to the terms of participation which state games cannot be postponed.
Still distraught at the decision to cancel their pool game with New Zealand, Italy coach Conor O’Shea complicated matters by claiming it would be double standards to reschedule Scotland’s game.
Italian players broke down in tears when their final game was cancelled and Dodson agreed with their claims that heavyweight nations like New Zealand or England would not be sent home.
‘If you are an economic powerhouse of the game, it comes with more clout and most people feel that if it had been an economic powerhouse, let’s say New Zealand, perhaps more thought would have been given to a flexible approach,’ said Dodson.
‘In the court of public opinion, we’ve already won. You can see from social media that people feel that this doesn’t feel quite right.
‘Take Scotland, we are a small nation with 11,000 adult players. This is a massive stage for us to perform on, there are kids who want to be the next Darcy Graham, Stuart Hogg or Finn Russell.’
A few miles away in central Tokyo, Japan coach Jamie Joseph was furious that the row had detracted from his team’s run of three straight victories.
The hosts shocked the rugby world by beating Ireland and their journey so far had been the competition’s feel-good story.
‘Through reports I’ve read, I feel they’ve undermined the achievements of the Japanese national team and the significance of Sunday’s Test match against Scotland for Japan,’ he said. ‘We feel we’ve played and won three Test matches and that’s put us in the best position to win this pool.
‘I’d like to remind everybody it hasn’t been a fluke — it’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people.
‘This team has been in camp for 240 days this year alone. Whilst the majority of my players are professional in their companies, we are an amateur rugby team.
‘What that means is that when our players are in the camp with Japan they do not get paid — or they get around 100 bucks a day.
‘I’ll let you guys do the maths and make the comparisons to the other teams. The last comment I’ll make is that everyone in our sport — the players and staff — want to play the Test match. It’s important for us to wake up on Monday morning and understand we’re a worthy top eight team or not.
‘The key difference between us and Scotland is that we’re driven and supported by the whole country. My team is motivated by achieving something great, not avoiding embarrassment.’