England v France to be cancelled as Japan braces for ‘super typhoon’
Tokyo: World Rugby are on Thursday expected to announce the cancellation of England's blockbuster final pool game against France as Typhoon Hagibis bears down on the Asian archipelago.
The cancellation – unprecedented in the World Cup's 32-year history – will not affect the rankings in Pool C and mean Australia are almost certain to play England in the first quarter final match at Oita Stadium on Saturday October 19.
It is not clear if other games will also be cancelled. The Rugby World Cup organising committee will hold a media briefing in Tokyo at 2pm AEDT on Thursday.
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.
England sit atop Pool C on 15 points with France trailing by two on 13 points. Argentina's win over USA on Wednesday afternoon was not enough to help them qualify for the knockout stages. The 2015 semi-finalists will exit the tournament in coming days.
In Pool D, Australia and Wales are guaranteed quarter final spots. The only way the Wallabies could top the pool is if they beat Georgia on Friday and the Welsh lost to Uruguay on Sunday.
If Australia beat Georgia and the Wales v Uruguay game in Kumamoto is also called off, it will make no difference to the final pool standings, with the Wallabies and Wales level on points but Wales on top having beaten Australia in the pool stages.
Hagibis is expected to deliver lashing rain and damaging winds of up to 270km/h, hitting Japan's southern island of Honshu over the weekend.
Games in Yokohama are expected to be the worst affected, including the Pool C game between England and France on Saturday and the Pool A showdown between Japan and Scotland on Sunday.
The Brave Blossoms are topping the pool on 14 points with Ireland on 11 and Scotland on 10. Assuming Ireland beat Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday, the winner of Sunday's game in Yokohama will determine which teams go through to the knock out rounds.
On Wednesday Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said his side were preparing as usual for the game.
"I had a look at the weather app and it does look like it is heading into Tokyo this weekend," Townsend said after his team's 61-0 bonus point win over Russia. "It is a few days away and it could miss the Tokyo area or could still go there."
Tournament rules state that any pool game which cannot be played will not be rescheduled and instead be recorded as a 0-0 draw, with bonus points unavailable. That would ensure Scotland fail to reach the quarter-finals for just the second time in the tournament's history.
Townsend said he was unsure whether World Rugby had back-up plans. Earlier on Wednesday media reports suggested the England v France game would be moved to Oita, on Japan's southern island of Kyushu.
"We will be getting updates from World Rugby over the next two days over what the contingencies are," Townsend said.
"I am sure that alternative venues or arrangements are being looked at. Not just our game, but England and France play in the same stadium the night before.
"I don't know if that's getting looked at for the Ireland-Samoa game (on Saturday) as well, with it being first forecast as (hitting) Fukuoka."
Townsend said he felt his players had done what was required on Wednesday to put themselves in position to dash the hopes of the tournament hosts of reaching the knock-out stages for the first time.
"It was a tough game," Townsend said. "The scoreline doesn't suggest that, but the effort that went into getting that scoreline by putting pressure on the Russian defence to open up spaces was huge from my players.
"Getting the bonus point … we knew that if we hadn't got that, Sunday would have been difficult, so getting that was excellent.
"Getting a big score will also keep things interesting for Saturday, as well with the Ireland-Samoa game.
"But also for the confidence – the players know that for two games now we haven't conceded a point, that's very encouraging."
More to come
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