This article was supposed to be a build-up to the England game. It was all penned in. Friday: build-up, maybe some talking points surrounding the Farrell Ford selection conundrum; Sunday: post-match analysis looking ahead to the knockouts – ‘England’s pack proves too good for France and will be vital if they are to be serious World Cup contenders’ seemed a fair bet.
But now, to the shock, horror, and, in some quarters, anger, of the rugby world, that’s all out the window now. Typhoon Hagibis has been loosed upon the world, and it appears not to be a Scotland fan.
So, to re-emphasise: now what?
First thing’s first, it’s a meteorological phenomenon, not a World Rugby match fixing conspiracy, and so the hysteria demonstrated by some online is ridiculous.
This typhoon, that will reach Japan on Saturday, is expected to bring winds in excess of 120mph and up to 500mm of rain. To put this in to context, Storm Eleanor – a cyclone that hit the UK in January last year, leaving tens of thousands without power – had maximum wind speeds of 89mph. The last big typhoon to hit Japan earlier this year, Typhoon Faxai, caused $443 million worth of damage and three deaths; Typhoon Hagibis is two-and-a-half times the size.
It was this, quite understandable, concern that led tournament director Alan Gilpin to cancel matches over the weekend. Two games on Saturday – including England’s final group game against France – have been called off and declared as scoreless draws, whilst World Rugby has said it will make a decision on Sunday morning about whether Sunday’s fixtures will go ahead. This includes Scotland’s Pool A decider against Japan where, if Scotland can secure a bonus point win without allowing a Japanese losing bonus point, they will progress to the quarter-finals.
The response has been serious. Scottish Rugby is frustrated at World Rugby’s intransigence to move the time and location of the game, threatening a legal challenge against the organising body. A representative speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme declared that “it goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament,” and that a leading sports QC’s opinion “unravels World Rugby’s case.”
If Sunday’s game is deemed too unsafe to play, it could catastrophically mar this so far successful tournament: firstly revoking Japan of any celebration in their progression and secondly allowing a legal battle between Scottish Rugby and World Rugby to take precedence over the sporting action which up until now has been phenomenal.
Your writer hopes this is not the case, as it’s far more enjoyable waxing lyrical about sporting drama than it is deciphering the details of a participation agreement. Ultimately, whilst the frustration of players like Sergio Parisse is understandable, competitive animals as they are, might it not be better for everyone to just move on?
By Will Sewell.