A history of cancelled rugby matches, from wild weather to political impasses
Japan’s Meteorological Agency is monitoring Typhoon Hagibis, which is expected to lash southern Honshu over the weekend and could put further matches in the area in jeopardy.
These two matches are the first at a Rugby World Cup ever to be cancelled in its history since 1987.
Cancelling rugby test matches is very rare; most games go ahead in rain, snow and all sorts of inclement weather, though hardly typhoons.
Continue reading below…
There are only a handful of tests – and some first class matches – which have been cancelled or abandoned. Here’s a list of them:
Ireland v France, Paris, 2012
This match was abandoned just two minutes after the scheduled kick-off time at the Stade de France – because the pitch was still frozen.
The capacity crowd of 80,000 people were told by the PA announcer that the ground was not deemed safe for playing a game of rugby.
Eventually the French captain Thierry Dusautoir took to the PA to reassure the crowd that the game had indeed been called off.
By the time the game was due to start the air temperature was -5C.
The whole thing was described by the Daily Telegraph as one of the biggest PR disasters in the Six Nations.
It was the height of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and rugby became a dangerous occupation.
But a series of bomb threats and death threats by the IRA ratcheted up the pressure.
The games were due to be played in the wake of the burning down of the British Embassy after Bloody Sunday.
Eventually both players and authorities decided to call off the matches.
Russia v Georgia, 2019
The game was set to go ahead in August but Russian authorities decided that “demonstrations by radical persons” in protest against Russian political actionism meant the team would not travel to Georgia.
Georgian authorities said they could guarantee the safety of the team. Russia wouldn’t budge.
Japan v Hong Kong, 2015
Unlike the other matches on this list, this fixture wasn’t actually called off until a quarter of the match had been played. Perhaps its cancellation wasn’t famous at the time – but in hindsight, the outcome was rather ominous.
It was to be Japan’s final warm-up game in the lead up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup but some excessively heavy rain courtesy of a passing typhoon rendered the match unplayable (sounds familiar?).
Despite Japan being a massive three points ahead on the scoreboard at the 20-minute mark, the game was deemed a draw.
Eddie Jones was purportedly not very happy with the outcome, wanting to test his team with the World Cup on the horizon.
Crusaders v Highlanders, 2019
Police had given the go-ahead for the game from a security point of view but the Crusaders organisation said that “all other issues and considerations pale in significance” after the loss of life.
With the news the Crusaders franchise will undergo a rebrand, @tomvinirugby processes what will happen to the identity of Super Rugby's most successful franchise. https://t.co/PMKFjfLXNn
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 3, 2019
But while the game was called off, it also began a debate on the name of the Crusaders – did it evoke the Christian anti-Islamic crusades?
In the end, the Crusaders decided to keep the name for at least the 2020 season.
Springboks v Waikato, 1981
Probably the most famous cancelled match in New Zealand history.
The Springbok tour went ahead despite massive protests against apartheid South Africa.
It all came together – police and protesters – in a massive pitch invasion in Hamilton.
After that little would be the same again – not rugby, not the tour and maybe not even New Zealand.
Fans are not happy with World Rugby’s supposed lack of foresight:
Join free and tell us what you really think!Sign up for free