World Rugby fumes over Scotland threat
WORLD CUP REACTION: World Rugby slammed Scotland over a “disappointing” threat of legal action on Friday.
Tempers flared over fears their pivotal game with hosts Japan will be cancelled because of a typhoon.
After Japan coach Jamie Joseph had also lashed out at Scotland’s warning, the governing body took the highly unusual step of rebuking an individual team.
Scotland faces elimination from the World Cup if Sunday’s Pool A game is axed as a result of Typhoon Hagibis, which is due to plough into the Tokyo area on Saturday and could cause widespread damage.
“It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments at a time when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday’s matches to take place as scheduled,” World Rugby said.
Hagibis is predicted to be “one of the largest and most destructive typhoons to hit Japan since 1958”, it said, adding that Scotland had signed up to rules stating that if a game cannot be played on the scheduled day, it is counted as a draw.
Scottish Rugby Union Chief Executive Mark Dodson had earlier insisted Scotland wouldn’t become “collateral damage” from the typhoon, warning that legal action was a possibility if the game is cancelled.
“We don’t know that [it’s too late] – we have to challenge it,” Dodson told BBC radio.
“This is about the game and rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby.”
‘I had a good laugh’
World Rugby’s rebuke followed a terse exchange between the rival coaches, when Joseph suggested Scotland were out to avoid “embarrassment” and Scotland’s Gregor Townsend said he “had a good laugh” at his opposite number’s comments.
Joseph was left fuming by Scotland’s talk of legal action, saying the suggestion the hosts favoured cancellation “undermined” their achievement in winning all three games so far.
“I feel they’ve undermined the achievements of the Japanese national team and the significance of Sunday’s Test match against Scotland for Japan,” said the former All Black.
“We’ve played and won three Test matches and that’s put us in the best position in our pool,” added Joseph.
“I’d like to remind everybody that hasn’t been a fluke – this team has been in camp for 240 days this year alone.”
Japan won three matches at the 2015 World Cup but failed to reach the knockout stage after a 45-10 loss to Scotland.
But they have captured the hearts of the baseball-mad nation after beating Russia 30-10, stunning Ireland 19-12 and thrashing Samoa 38-19.
Organisers will assess the impact of the typhoon, set to strike the area on Saturday, before deciding to whether go ahead with the match on Sunday.
The Pool A table-toppers will qualify for the quarterfinals if Sunday’s game is cancelled, giving both teams two points for a 0-0 draw.
“My team is motivated by achieving something great – not avoiding an embarrassment,” insisted Joseph.
Scotland’s Townsend later returned fire when he said: “We know it wouldn’t be an embarrassment to lose to Japan, we know they are an excellent side and we will have to play very well to win.
“I had a good laugh about them [Joseph’s comments]. You may know coaches use the press conference to put messages out and get a response. Sometimes you don’t get one.”
Japan, Scotland and Ireland are battling for the two quarterfinal places from Pool A.
Ireland plays their final game against Samoa on Saturday.
Japan braced on Friday for the powerful typhoon barrelling towards Tokyo that has already forced the cancellation of two matches, disrupted the Suzuka Grand Prix and grounded flights.
Overnight, Typhoon Hagibis was downgraded slightly from its “super typhoon” status, but was still forecast to be packing maximum gusts of 216 kilometres per hour (134 miles per hour) when it makes landfall late Saturday.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned that areas from the west to the northeast of the country would experience “brutal winds and violent seas”.
“We ask you to evacuate or take measures to ensure safety early, before winds and rain intensify, and before it gets dark, in order to protect your own life and the lives of your loved ones,” JMA forecaster Yasushi Kajiwara said at a press briefing.
“The rain could be record-breaking,” he added.
“The predicted conditions and severity of a possible disaster are tremendous.”
The massive storm is expected to dump up to half a metre (nearly 20 inches) of rain on the Tokyo area in the 24 hours to midday on Sunday, with up to 80 centimetres forecast for the central Tokai region.
Surging sea levels could inundate homes and facilities in coastal areas with the storm approaching at a time of high tides with a full moon, the JMA warned.
Non-compulsory evacuation orders were issued to nearly 30,000 people in eastern Japan, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike urged companies in the capital to “secure the safety of their employees” by allowing workers to stay home or dismissing them early.