Overnight I was listening to Rhod Sharp’s Up All Night programme on Radio Five Live when it cut at 4.00am (UK time) live and direct to Rugby World Cup press conference at which it was announced that two games on Saturday have been cancelled – one of them the Pool C shoot-out between England and France – because a super typhoon named Hagibis is going to hit the Tokyo region this weekend.
All the media reports, including that from the BBC rugby correspondent Chris Jones, are pointing out that such events have been comprehensively provided for in the RWC administrative protocols for the tournament.
Specifically, as I understand it, the rules say that any match cancelled in such circumstances is deemed to have been a 0-0 draw with both teams being awarded 2 points. As it happens this means little disruption to Pool C because England and France were both guaranteed to progress to the quarter-finals anyway and will now do so with England notionally as the Pool winner and France as the runner-up.
The decision on other matches – some of them crucial, such as that between Japan and Scotland – will be made nearer the time. The effect may be that Scotland, who currently have a 50:50 chance of going through to the knockout stage, will be going home because, if both they and Japan receive 2 points, the host nation will progress in their place.
My immediate reaction is that this state of affairs is totally unsatisfactory. To my mind, World Rugby’s decision to award the tournament to Japan at all in circumstances where it must have been foreseen that at this time of year such weather conditions might easily disrupt the action has to be questioned.
I state that bluntly in the full knowledge that – within a year or two – the fact that a typhoon has had such an influence upon a major world competition will be but a small footnote in history, simply appearing in the record books (and in the tournament’s entry on Wikipedia) and noted in retrospect by rugby followers everywhere as “Oh yes, that was the World Cup when …” and little more.
In the great scheme of things, however, the fact a few elite rugby players will have what might have been the pinnacle of their sporting careers snatched from them by a damned silly decision by World Rugby administrators will be a matter of no consequence.
A pity, that. But also a travesty.