Rugby World Cup pool stage could be disrupted as cyclone heads for Japan

Tropical Storm Faxai expected to become a typhoon; games could be moved around

A tropical cyclone heading for Tokyo has brought into focus the potential disruption at the Rugby World Cup in Japan with the prospect of cancelled games causing havoc in the pool stage.

Tropical Storm Faxai is expected to develop into a typhoon and may hit Tokyo over the weekend or at the start of next week, around 10 days before the start of the competition. Tournament organisers have been bracing themselves for weather disruption with Japan averaging around 30 typhoons and 1,500 earthquakes a year but Faxai’s potential arrival so close to the start of the tournament demonstrates the threat posed.

This time last year the biggest storm for 25 years struck Kobe and Osaka, both of which will be hosting World Cup games.

Organisers have planned for the possibility of having to relocate teams from their bases, or even move matches to different venues, but in the event of a pool match being cancelled tournament rules state that both teams will be awarded two points – effectively rendering the result a 0-0 draw.

That in turn could have a significant bearing on the final standings in the pool stage and even hamper some teams’ chances of advancing to the knockout stages. Should, for example, South Africa or New Zealand be deemed to draw with Canada or Namibia – teams against which they would expect to secure comfortable bonus point wins – the standings in Pool B could be significantly skewed.

A World Rugby spokesperson said: “Any pool match that cannot be played on the same day will be determined a draw with two match points each. However, we will be doing everything we can to ensure that the match is played in a safe environment for teams and fans.”

Ireland are due to depart for Japan on Wednesday and will play their opening Pool A game against Scotland in Yokohama City. Other pool games will take place in Shizuoka, against hosts Japan on September 28th, under the roof in Kobe (v Russia, October 3rd) and Fukuoka (v Samoa, October 12th).

The most high-profile weather-affected World Cup match in recent memory was the 1995 semi-final between France and the eventual winners South Africa. A deluge in Durban forced kick-off to be delayed by an hour, though tournament rules state that any cancelled match in the knockout stages will be rescheduled.

For pool stage fixtures, if the match begins but is abandoned before half-time, two points will also be awarded to both teams although points scored in the match, and bonus points, will still count. The result will stand if a match is abandoned at or after half-time and the same cut-off point applies in knockout matches. – Guardian

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