Rugby World Cup: Organisers could cancel or move pool matches if super Typhoon Hagibis worsens

Batten down the hatches, the Rugby World Cup is bracing for a major disruption to its blockbuster final weekend of pool matches because of super Typhoon Hagibis.

World Rugby are on Thursday expected to announce the cancellation of England’s blockbuster final pool game against France as Typhoon Hagibis bears down. An update has been scheduled for midday local time. 

Any cancellation – unprecedented in the World Cup’s 32-year history – will not affect who goes through from Pool C. It is not clear if other games will also be cancelled, with hosts Japan also set to round out their tilt at an historic quarterfinal spot against Scotland at the same venue on Sunday.

England's game against France could be scrapped, according to reports.

Cameron Spencer

England’s game against France could be scrapped, according to reports.

World Rugby has not confirmed the rumours, and would say no more about the news conference.

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But by Wednesday night sources close to the England and French camps confirmed to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that they had been told unofficially the game would be cancelled, resulting in a 0-0 draw.

France are likely to be furious as it robs them of the chance to top Pool C and play the runner-up of Pool D (likely to be Australia), thereby setting up a potentially easier path through the final four.

Super Typhoon Hagibis is heading for Japan and could affect the Rugby World Cup's weekend pool games.


Super Typhoon Hagibis is heading for Japan and could affect the Rugby World Cup’s weekend pool games.

After the typhoon had been originally tracked to make landfall in the south of Japan, that forecast has now been updated to have the extreme weather hitting Tokyo and Yokohama on Saturday.

​There has been speculation that World Rugby could consider moving one or both of the matches south to Oita, where the stadium has a retractable roof, and the weather is not expected to be nearly as extreme.

If the matches are left to go ahead in Yokohama, one or both might have to be cancelled if the typhoon hits Japan’s second largest city with the force being predicted midweek.

It is not thought the All Blacks’ Saturday clash against Italy in Toyota – 241km from Tokyo – is under threat, though it may well be played in extreme stormy weather.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Wednesday warned Kiwi travellers in Japan that Typhoon Hagibis was tracking towards the south-west of Japan and was forecast to make landfall around Tokyo as a Category 2-3 Typhoon from Saturday.

The Weather Network tracks the likely path of Typhoon Hagibis.

The Weather Network

The Weather Network tracks the likely path of Typhoon Hagibis.

“Typhoon Hagibis is predicted to bring heavy rain, flash flooding, and destructive winds which may reach speeds of over 178kmh,” the ministry said.  

Meteorologist Robert Speta told the Japan Times: “The storm went from a tropical storm to a violent typhoon in the matter of hours. In fact it was an historic amount of intensification in such a short time.”

George Horne scores Scotland's seventh try against Russia in calm conditions in Fukuroi, Shizuoka on Wednesday.


George Horne scores Scotland’s seventh try against Russia in calm conditions in Fukuroi, Shizuoka on Wednesday.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency has given the storm its highest classification of “violent”.

Hagibis is significantly larger than Typhoon Faxai which brought Tokyo to a standstill prior to the tournament kickoff last month, leaving a million homes without power and killing three people and injuring 40. 

England’s defence coach John Mitchell – the former All Blacks boss – said they were planning for all eventualities heading into their clash against France which will decide whether they meet Wales or Australia in the quarterfinals.

“One thing we really pride ourselves on in all our preparation is to be adaptable and flexible for anything that may throw us off,” said Mitchell. “We are looking forward to playing France, wherever that may be.

“It is where our preparation is totally focussed and we don’t let that noise enter our preparation. It is not something we decide. That is World Rugby’s decision. 

“We are really looking forward to playing France and if there are other factors outside our control then we will find ways of preparing.”

The Kiwi even managed to find some mirth in the prospect of the weather having a say at this World Cup.

“Whatever the conditions, our football will be pretty consistent,” he added. “We’re expecting rain but if we don’t get rain we’ll deal with it. We haven’t had a lot of rain in the last few months so it will be quite nice to feel like home.” 

The Scots will be especially nervous about their clash against the hosts going ahead on Sunday. They are likely to need to defeat Jamie Joseph’s side with a bonus point to sneak into the quarterfinals.

– with Sydney Morning Herald