- SRU chiefs remain on a collision course with World Rugby over their Japan clash
- A decision on whether the match will take place will be taken on Sunday morning
- Cancellations and recriminations have been caused by typhoon Hagibis
- England v France and New Zealand v Italy have been called off by organisers
SRU chiefs remain on a collision course with World Rugby over their Japan clash will take place
TV screens showed the path of the Super Typhoon as the tournament officials addressed issue
World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin addressed the situation at a press conference
Typhoon Hagibis is being put on par with a category 5 hurricane with 160mph winds expected
SRU chiefs remain on a collision course with World Rugby after the decision on whether Sunday’s make-or-break game with Japan goes ahead was delayed until the morning of the match.
While coach Gregor Townsend spoke in conciliatory tones about having ‘faith in the organisers, that the game will be played’, Sportsmail understands an official protest would be issued if Sunday’s game is cancelled without the possibility of a 24-hour extension. Lawyers may also be standing by.
The World Cup was plunged into unprecedented chaos on Thursday, amid cancellations and recriminations caused by the approaching Typhoon Hagibis.
Twelve hours after Sportsmail broke the story that England’s Pool C encounter with France had been called off, World Rugby announced that Le Crunch was one of two fixtures being abandoned, due to the impending arrival of the tropical storm, which has been officially classified as ‘violent’.
New Zealand’s match with Italy was also called off — denying the Azzurri the mathematical possibility of claiming a place in the quarter-finals.
Tournament officials confirmed all four teams affected by the cancellations would be awarded two points each — with the games declared 0-0 draws, in line with regulations.
That scenario would condemn Scotland to a pool-stage exit but Townsend expressed belief the powers-that-be would ensure the Pool A decider takes place.
‘We believe the game hasn’t been cancelled because the weather forecast is much improved for Sunday,’ he said. ‘It looks like the game will be played.
‘I would hope that everyone who is involved in the tournament would want the game to be played and that they will do all they can to ensure it is.
‘The situation is changing a lot. We’ve been told that Sunday looks clear now but the infrastructure might not be in place even though the weather is nice. That’s where we have to believe and have faith that the game will be played, even if it’s behind closed doors or at a different venue.
‘The way I read the rules was that you can’t change days but you could change venues and contingencies would be in place.
‘I’ve since been told there is force majeure (measures in the rules) and things can change because of exceptional circumstances. If that means Monday because it takes a day for things to be put back in order, then who knows? Right now, I think they’re planning on it going ahead on Sunday.’
Townsend said the tournament’s credibility was at stake, adding: ‘It will make things very unusual for a World Cup in any sport to be decided by a game being called off on one day. Let’s say you’re looking out your hotel windows at 5 o’clock on Sunday and it’s sunny, it would be strange if a game couldn’t take place that day or the following day.’
Privately the SRU remain concerned the game will be called off at the last moment, Sportsmail reporting on Thursday senior SRU sources saying they would be ‘furious’ if the game did not go ahead.
At a meeting held by World Rugby and tournament organisers in Tokyo, it was made clear to the SRU that there were no contingency plans in place to play the game on Monday. It was Sunday or not at all. But the SRU top brass travelled to Yokohama insisting it is well within the rules to play the game a day late if it is postponed due to bad weather.
Sportsmail understands the SRU made clear to World Rugby that the over-riding imperative should be for the match to be played and claimed tournament rules expressly empowered the organisers to postpone rather than cancel the game totally.
A statement read: ‘With potential impact on our last Pool A fixture, Scottish Rugby fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarter-finals on the pitch, and will be flexible to accommodate this.’
But tournament director Alan Gilpin has already ruled out a change of date, saying: ‘We have looked again at the potential to apply some consistency to our contingency plan across all the games and we treat all the matches fairly.
‘Italy are in the same position as Scotland are in. It is a huge match and we would be loving to play that game. But we won’t treat that match any differently.’