The devastation of Typhoon Hagibis could send this already-chaotic World Cup into the court room following revelations of Scottish rugby officials threatening legal action against World Rugby to ensure their do-or-die clash against Japan takes place on Sunday.
Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament have been jeopardised by the anticipated arrival of the typhoon in Japan, which has forced the cancellation of the England vs France and New Zealand vs Italy fixtures, which were set to take place on Saturday.
Currently lying in third place in Pool A, Scotland need a victory against the Brave Blossoms to finish in a top two spot in their group, which would solidify their place in the quarter-finals, but the looming threat of Typhoon Hagibis could be enough to call the game off altogether.
Such an outcome would see Scotland remain in third place and miss out on a play-offs spot for just the second time in their history.
An announcement issued by World Rugby on Thursday stated that an official decision would be made on Sunday as to whether the fixture would go ahead as scheduled.
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According to the Telegraph, the Scots’ legal advice is that under tournament rules, there is flexibility to adjust the playing schedule in case of a force majeure, of which Typhoon Hagibis evidently is.
A series of elongated and fiery meetings were held throughout Thursday, which reportedly left Scottish Rugby’s chief executive Mark Dodson “in a state of apoplexy” as he and chief operating officer Dominic McKay fought to keep their nation’s World Cup hopes alive.
It is believed Scotland’s preferred outcome is to move the game back 24 hours from its current time of 7:45pm on Sunday to the same time on Monday.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 10, 2019
They have stressed that at that stage, Typhoon Hagibis is expected to have passed Yokohama, where the game is to be played.
If the game is cancelled, however, the match will be declared a draw, leaving the Scots at least three points short of Ireland, who are heavily expected to defeat Samoa in their final pool match in Fukuoka on Saturday.
The revelations come after members of the Italian squad were said to be left “utterly heartbroken” at the sudden cancellation of their clash against the All Blacks without any prior warning.
Both head coach Conor O’Shea and captain Sergio Parisse were in Tokyo waiting to announce their team for Saturday’s match at 1pm yesterday when they received notification from World Rugby about the fate of the clash at 12:59pm.
While attaining a maiden victory over the back-to-back reigning world champions would have been extremely unlikely, Italy’s aspirations of appearing in the World Cup knockout stages for the first time ever hindered on that match.
The cancellation of England’s fixture against France also denied the French a chance at claiming top spot in Pool C, with tournament director Alan Gilpin insistent that a precedent has been set and that a “one size fits all” approach is the only fair way to proceed.
A senior spokesman for Scottish Rugby has brandished World Rugby’s handling of the affair as “shambolic” and “embarrassing”, and that unless it adheres to its own tournament rules, Scotland will have no choice but to take immediate legal action.
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this game [between Scotland and Japan] on,” said the spokesman.
“There are 10,000 Scotland supporters here to see their team play, and for the integrity of the sport and this tournament, we’ve got to find a way to deliver on our undertaking to stage this game.
“World Rugby said three or four months ago that they had contingency plans in place to address any problems or challenges that might occur, and we took them at their word.
“We now expect them to deploy those contingency plans and ensure this match goes ahead. The fans, players and everyone who loves rugby will demand nothing less. The whole situation is almost beyond belief.”
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