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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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'I hope everyone involved in the tournament wants the game to be played'

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend suggested his side’s clash with Japan could go ahead behind closed doors.

SCOTLAND HEAD COACH Gregor Townsend has called on World Rugby to do everything in its power to ensure his side’s crucial World Cup Pool A meeting with host nation Japan goes ahead.

The game is scheduled for Yokohama on Sunday evening but there are strong fears that it could be cancelled in the wake of two other World Cup games being called off.

Super Typhoon Hagibis is set to hit the area on Saturday, meaning that games between England and France and New Zealand and Italy have already been cancelled by World Rugby.

gregor-townsend-and-joe-schmidt-before-the-game Townsend with Joe Schmidt before Scotland's defeat to Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While the extremely powerful typhoon is set to have moved on by Sunday, World Rugby is concerned that transport infrastructure will not yet be back up and running and that there may be damage left in Hagibis’ wake.

If the game is cancelled and Ireland have secured at least one match point against Samoa on Saturday, Scotland would be knocked out of the World Cup, with Japan advancing to the quarter-finals as Pool A winners and Ireland as runners-up.

Speaking at a media briefing that was arranged at the last minute today, Townsend called on World Rugby to do everything it can to ensure the game goes ahead, even if it means playing behind closed doors.

“We believe that the game hasn’t been cancelled because the weather will be better on Sunday and it looks like the game will be played,” said Townsend.

“That’s what we have to put faith in – that they have made that call with a lot of certainty and confidence that the game will be played on Sunday night.

“I hope everyone involved in the tournament wants the game to be played and will do their utmost for the game to be played.

“Maybe yesterday, when it looked like the weather was going to be rougher on Sunday, there seemed to be discussion about looking at an alternative venue. I know the situation changes a lot but what we have been told is that Sunday looks clear now. Saturday is the day when the typhoon comes in and it comes through quite quickly.

“I have looked at the weather and Sunday night is meant to be nice and calm. Now what may happen is infrastructure may not be in place, even though the weather is nice.

a-view-of-the-captains-run Scotland are scheduled to play Japan on Sunday in Yokohama. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We have got to believe, and have faith in the organisers, that the game will be played, even if it is behind closed doors or played at a different venue.”

If the game is cancelled like the two before it, World Rugby is likely to be on the receiving end of major criticism and accusations that the integrity of the World Cup has been even further damaged.

England and France had both already qualified for the quarter-finals before their game was cancelled. 

Italy expressed their anger at their game against the All Blacks’ being called off, with Conor O’Shea’s side still having had an admittedly long-shot chance of qualifying.

And Townsend underlined that Japan going through as pool winners after a cancelled game simply cannot happen.

“This is a Rugby World Cup, the biggest tournament we play in once every four years, the third biggest sporting event in the world,” he said.

“Obviously, we are involved in a game where a winner can go through, or a winner with a certain number of points could go through and the loser not go through.

“It will make things very unusual for a World Cup in any sport to be decided by a game being called off on one day.

a-view-of-the-press-briefing-ahead-of-typhoon-hagibis World Rugby held an emergency media briefing today. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Let’s say if you are looking out your hotel window at 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon and it is sunny, it would be quite strange if a game couldn’t take place that day.

“I think there has to be a game. The game looks likely to be on Sunday, according to what we are hearing. If that game is on Sunday at Yokohama, great. A lot of our fans will be at the game. I know there will be a lot of home fans as well – and what a spectacle it will be.

“The way I read the rules was you can’t change days, but you could change venues – contingencies would be in place. I have since been told there is force majeure, that things can change because of exceptional circumstances.

“If that means Monday because it takes a day for things to be put back in order, then who knows? But just now I think they are planning for it to go ahead on Sunday.”

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Murray Kinsella

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