Hagibis rains on RWC parade

Typhoon Hagibis has put a damper on a potentially explosive end to the Rugby World Cup pool stage.

The Springboks have been given a couple of days off following their 66-7 win against Canada in Kobe. The weather in the coastal city has been clear, warm and pleasant.

The team will only head back to Tokyo on 14 October. They won’t be in any rush to encounter what experts are calling a typhoon of ‘explosive intensification’.

Hagibis is leading today’s edition of the Japan Times. The story explains what the main island of Honshu will be up against in the coming days – the US military’s forecasting agency has put the typhoon on a par with a category 5 hurricane – and the more you read the more you realise why a couple of big fixtures in Toyota and Yokohama have already been cancelled.

Train operations will be suspended if Hagibis doesn’t alter its present course. Experts say it has escalated from a tropical storm to a violent typhoon in a short space of time. The term ‘perfect storm’ seems apt rather than overly dramatic.

‘This only happens when you have all the right ingredients,’ Robert Sperta, a meteorologist and expert on typhoons told the Japan Times.

‘Like if you had a fire and instead of throwing gasoline on it to make it bigger you also grabbed some lighter fluid, a bit of oil and a couple of aerosol cans for good measure.’

Another expert interviewed by the paper said that the high wind speeds could knock down utility poles and ‘blow away trucks’. These statements put the matter of the recently cancelled rugby matches into perspective.

World Rugby confirmed on Thursday that the Italy-New Zealand clash in Toyota as well as the England-France game in Yokohama will not go ahead. The final call on whether to stage the Japan-Scotland match will be made on Sunday.

Many have asked why World Rugby didn’t have a contingency plan in place for this worst-case scenario. After all, there’s been talk of a typhoon reducing a crunch match to a 0-0 draw since the lead-up to the start of the tournament.

The safety of fans and players must come first. However, one has to ask how you can stage a tournament during a country’s typhoon season without have the necessary plans and contingencies in place to ensure that matches aren’t reduced to 0-0 draws. One log point, of course, may determine whether a side advances to the playoffs or not.

I don’t think that Italy would have beaten the All Blacks. England would probably have edged France to secure top spot in Pool C.

That said, a few weeks ago, I would not have bet on Uruguay to beat Fiji or on Japan to humble Ireland. We all know how those matches turned out. In rugby, there’s always a chance of an upset.

Japan, the success story that’s captured the hearts of local and foreign fans alike, are the favourites to beat Scotland. If the match doesn’t go ahead due to the typhoon, however, Scotland will have every right to feel hard done by.

Personally, I feel that the fans are the biggest losers in this situation.

It’s been a fantastic World Cup to date. The Japanese have brought their own unique energy to the tournament and every foreign fan I’ve chatted to has declared Asia’s first World Cup a resounding success.

It’s a shame that the pool stage won’t have an explosive ending on account of the weather. While Hagibis should be taken seriously and no one should be placed in harm’s way, it’s sad to think that the most exciting and unpredictable part of this World Cup is on course for an anticlimax.

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