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Thursday D-Day for England-France

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Thursday is D-Day for World Rugby decision on whether England-France must be cancelled

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

England insist their World Cup bid will not be blown off course by the threat Super Typhoon Hagibis poses to their Pool C decider against France on Saturday.

World Rugby is expected to announce on Thursday whether the clash at International Stadium Yokohama must be cancelled due to the storm that is arrowing towards the south coast of Japan.

Hagibis has escalated from a tropical storm into a Category Five super typhoon with winds reaching 180mph into one of the most dramatic intensifications of any tropical cyclone since records began.

Satellite images of the extreme weather event reveal that it is the size of Japan and shows no sign of deviating in its path or decreasing in magnitude.

It is many times the dimensions of Typhoon Faxai, which brought Tokyo to a standstill for the day of England’s arrival for the World Cup, delaying their exit from Narita Airport by six hours and leaving a million homes without power and killing three people. Also at threat is Scotland’s crunch Pool A clash against Japan at the same venue 24 hours later.

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While England and France have already guaranteed their places in the knockout phase, it would mean they enter the quarter-finals without having played for a fortnight – potentially leaving them undercooked.

“One thing we really pride ourselves on is being adaptable and flexible for anything that may throw us off,” defence coach John Mitchell said. “If there are other factors that are outside our control, then we’ll find another way to prepare very well.

“Ultimately though, we’re looking forward to playing France and that’s where our focus is. It’s where our preparation is totally focused and we don’t let that noise enter our preparation. It is not something we decide – it’s World Rugby’s decision.”

England are due to announce their team to face France on Thursday morning and even if the game does go ahead, Billy Vunipola, Joe Marler and Jack Nowell will almost certainly be missing. Vunipola, the Saracens No8 Eddie Jones dare not lose, twisted his left ankle against Argentina last Saturday and it is hoped he will recover in time for the quarter-final against Wales or Australia.

Marler and Nowell were also hurt against the Pumas and England are unlikely to take any risks with their respective back and hamstring injuries. Returning to the treatment room is a bitter pill for Nowell to swallow after he made his long-awaited comeback at Tokyo Stadium following months of battling an ankle problem.

The Exeter wing also had his appendix removed during the squad’s heat camp in Treviso in early September, further delaying his recovery. “It’s just a little hamstring injury. Don’t get me wrong, Jack will be getting slightly frustrated,” Mitchell said.

“We feel for him because he had the return from the injury he had in the Premiership final, then appendicitis and then another little niggle. But you saw a moment of brilliance for his try against Argentina – that upper body strength and power – and he will have taken a lot of satisfaction from that.”

– Press Association 

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Thursday is D-Day for World Rugby decision on whether England-France must be cancelled