Rugby World Cup group-stage deciders threatened by Super Typhoon Hagibis

Gerard Meagher in Tokyo
<span>Photograph: William West/AFP via Getty Images</span>
Photograph: William West/AFP via Getty Images

England and Scotland’s pool deciders this weekend are under threat from one of the most violent super typhoons in recent history, potentially causing chaos for tens of thousands of travelling supporters.

World Rugby may be forced into taking the unprecedented step of cancelling Saturday’s Pool C match between England and France as well as Scotland’s crucial fixture with Japan 24 hours later as the category five super typhoon heads for Yokohama. Both matches were among the most in-demand when tickets went on sale.

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Any games cancelled due to weather problems are registered as scoreless draws, with both sides awarded two points. While England and France have already qualified for the quarter-finals, it could have huge consequences for Scotland’s Pool A game with the hosts, which also takes place at Yokohama’s 72,000-seater stadium. If that match is cancelled Scotland would be eliminated, assuming Ireland beat Samoa on Saturday.

One of World Rugby’s contingency plans is to move both matches to other venues but that would cause havoc for more than 140,000 supporters across the weekend and prove a huge logistical headache for tournament organisers.

Super Typhoon Hagibis had initially threatened Ireland’s key match in Fukuoka on Saturday, but has altered its course and is now zeroing in on Tokyo and Yokohama. It has escalated from a tropical storm into a super typhoon with wind speeds estimated at 160mph in one of the most dramatic intensifications of any tropical cyclone since records began.

According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency it is on course to be the strongest to hit Japan this year.

Super Typhoon Hagibis

“Public and team safety is our No 1 priority,” said World Rugby. “While we have robust contingency plans in place for pool matches, such plans, if required, will only be actioned if the safety of teams, fans and workforce can be guaranteed.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on any contingency plans at this stage. We will continue to closely monitor this developing situation …fans are advised to monitor official Rugby World Cup channels for any updates.”

Last month, England’s arrival into Tokyo was delayed by Typhoon Faxai, which left more than 900,000 homes without power, killed three people and injured 40.

On a day of disruptions for England, it emerged a sickness bug has swept through the squad, with the captain, Owen Farrell, among those affected, while there was further confusion over Billy Vunipola’s ankle injury.

Farrell was unable to train due to the bug that has also affected the hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie. Joe Marler (back) and Jack Nowell (left leg) are potential doubts to face France after being unable to complete the full session .

England have insisted they will not take any risks with Vunipola, who suffered a twisted ankle against Argentina last Saturday. They were due to issue an update but provided minimal details of his condition other than confirming that he did require a protective boot after a picture emerged on social media of the No 8 wearing one. The England coaching staff had, on Monday, denied that he needed one.

England are still publicly claiming Vunipola, who has started all 12 of their Tests this year, could be involved against France but with qualification secured and Jones set to make a number of changes to his side it seems certain that he will be omitted with Mark Wilson standing by.

They remain hopeful that Vunipola will still play some part in the tournament and with Jones opting against summoning a replacement, a decision on his availability for the knockout stages is likely to be made next week. “We are being overly cautious and if there is any risk that Billy is not going to be 100% we will rest him,” said England’s attack coach, Scott Wisemantel.

Wisemantel also hit back at suggestions that teams such as Argentina and France can rely on passion more than England. This week, the France prop Emerick Setiano claimed “we want to kill them” as revenge for England’s 44-8 victory at Twickenham in the Six Nations.

“I just don’t think anyone’s got a mortgage over passion,” Wisemantel said. “It is ridiculous. You hear all this stuff. You see last week, some of the Argentinians crying. Then the English stand there singing the national anthem with as much gusto, but just not with tears, so people say: ‘They’re passionate and we’re not.’ That’s absolute rubbish. Our guys would die for that jersey, for the badge.”

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