Rugby World Cup warned of fresh cancellation as typhoon slams into Japan

12 October 2019 - 16:40 By AFP
Men watch the swollen Isuzu River due to heavy rain caused by Typhoon Hagibis in Ise, central Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo October 12, 2019.
Men watch the swollen Isuzu River due to heavy rain caused by Typhoon Hagibis in Ise, central Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo October 12, 2019.
Image: Kyodo/via REUTERS

Rugby World Cup officials warned that a third match could be cancelled and urged fans to stay safe as a powerful typhoon slammed into Japan on Saturday, leaving two people dead.

Ireland confirmed their place in the quarter-finals with a 47-5 bonus-point win over Samoa -- the only game possible as Typhoon Hagibis smashed into the country, causing serious flooding and several landslides.

Organisers had already taken the unprecedented step of scrapping England's game against France and New Zealand against Italy on Saturday over the unusually large typhoon.

They warned Namibia and Canada of the "potential of cancellation" of their game on Sunday in Kamaishi, which was badly hit in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

"We have advised the Namibia and Canada teams of the current situation and potential of cancellation, and our message to fans not currently in Kamaishi is not to travel before confirmation of the match status," World Rugby said.

The governing body also urged fans to stay inside and follow any evacuation orders as the typhoon swept into Japan's east coast and over Tokyo.

"Remain indoors, check typhoon-related updates regularly and follow the advice of local authorities including any evacuation orders and ensure you have basic food provisions," it warned.

- Aki red card -

The venues for Sunday's four matches -- including Scotland's crunch clash with Japan -- will be inspected after the typhoon has passed before deciding whether they can go ahead.

The potential cancellation of the Pool A showdown has prompted a furious row, with Scotland -- who will be eliminated if it is called off -- threatening legal action.

Ireland's victory over Samoa means Scotland must beat Japan to have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals, while the Japanese need at least two points.

Even as the fate of Sunday's showdown remained unclear, Japan's players took to a sodden training field in Tokyo -- wading through a flooded passageway to get there, widely shared footage showed.

World Rugby has found itself in the firing line for staging the tournament in Japan, which is prone to typhoons and is also in one of the most seismically active regions on the planet.

But the governing body rejected a British media report that the back-up stadium for England v France was in Tokyo, not far away from the original venue in Yokohama, and that there were no contingency plans for the Japan v Scotland game.

The report was "categorically untrue", a World Rugby spokesman said.

Ireland have been in patchy form at the World Cup but they found their feet against Samoa, running in seven tries for the bonus-point win that guarantees their place in the last eight.

However, they made life difficult for themselves when inside centre Bundee Aki was sent off in the first half -- the latest player to be disciplined for a high tackle.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said the dismissal was "devastating" for Aki, who faces missing the rest of the tournament.

"It's hard to argue (about the red card) at the moment but it's pretty devastating for Bundee," said Schmidt.

"He knows a lot of the Samoan players really well, I know they've got a lot of respect for him and for us it's a really disappointing finish to the night."

World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton scored two tries to add to five-pointers to Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway.