Typhoon Hagibis is gathering force and ready, not only to batter Japan and provide a significant threat to life and property, but also to put a real dampener on this weekend’s sporting calendar
The devastating tropical storm, expected to be the worst to hit the region this year, has already put the Rugby World Cup under an extremely dark cloud with group games cancelled, others waiting to go the same way… and a small army of lawyers standing by to argue the repercussions.
And organisers of the Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka postponed Saturday’s qualifying session ‘’in the interests of safety for the spectators, competitors, and everyone at the circuit’’. It has now been pencilled in for 02.00BST on Sunday, with the race still scheduled for an 06.10 BST start.
If the conditions are still too hazardous, the starting grid will be decided by the standings after Friday’s final practice where Valterri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton, chasing his sixth world driver’s championship title, in another Mercedes front-row lock-out.
South-lying Suzuka expects to be hit by high winds and heavy rain throughout Saturday as Hagibis makes landfall not far from the track before moving north towards Tokyo. And although the Category Three typhoon has weakened slightly from its high point earlier in the week, the havoc it is causing is far-reaching.
Not least to the World Cup. Having already postponed Saturday’s pool games – England v France and New Zealand v Italy – and declared them 0-0 draws, World Rugby also told Scotland their crucial tie against hosts Japan which, like England’s game, was scheduled for Yokohama, could also fall victim of the super typhoon.
And the Scots were livid. Their chances of reaching the quarter-final rest solely on victory (they are third in Pool A and must beat the group leaders by at least four points, unless second in the table Ireland lose to Samoa) and their governing body believes they have a strong enough legal case to challenge World Rugby should they decide to cancel the game on Sunday morning.
World Rugby rules state that, ‘’where a pool match cannot be commenced on the day in which it is scheduled, it shall not be postponed to the following day and shall be considered as cancelled. In such situations, the result shall be allocated two points each and no score registered”.
Scottish Rugby Union president Mark Dodson, angered by the refusal to consider moving the game to another time and venue, said: ‘’For World Rugby to simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament. We’ve taken a leading sports QC’s opinion in London that challenges (the participation agreement) that and unravels the World Rugby case.”
However, World Rugby feel the worst of the storm will have passed before kick-off time and Scotland will get a fair chance of reaching the last eight.
Wales, however, are under no such threat for their final pool game against Uruguay in Kumamoto City. Already through, they need two points to top the group and have made 13 changes for the game.
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