The Offload: unprecedented IRFU statement ends a messy week

Kotaro Matsushima and Cheslin Kolbe fight it out in our mid-tournament awards

IRFU statement an unprecedented turn of events

The “IRFU statement re false claims published in Sunday Times” was an unprecedented turn of events, certainly in recent memory, from Irish rugby. Obviously what Stephen Jones, the Sunday Times UK rugby correspondent, wrote saying that “Irish and New Zealand unions were vehemently opposed to any rearrangement” of the Scotland versus Japan fixture due to Typhoon Hagibis hitting Yokohama on Saturday night, struck a chord.

“The statement by Stephen Jones in today’s edition of The Sunday Times referring to The IRFU being ‘vehemently opposed’ to any rearrangement of the Scotland v Japan fixture is completely false and the inference within the article that the IRFU made representations to World Rugby on the matter is totally without foundation. The Irish Rugby Football Union calls on Stephen Jones to immediately withdraw this scurrilous and untrue allegation.”

Going to print it remains unclear if Jones and the IRFU have been in contact but if the situation cannot be solved amicably then the next step can mean going only one route.

(Clue: a national governing body demands a journalist withdraws a “scurrilous and untrue allegation”).

The war of words before the typhoon whipped through Japan on Saturday does appear to have left a lot of rugby people needing to mend fractured relationships. For example, the Scotland rugby union relationship with World Rugby  appears at an all-time low.

The potential for legal action from the SRU has passed now they have been bounced out of the tournament

Jones is suggesting Ireland and New Zealand were up to no good.

“Completely false,” the IRFU have replied.

What a mess. Eventually, presumably this week, the rugby, the actual game itself, will dominate the narrative.

The Offload’s mid-tournament awards

The people's champions: The Brave Blossoms sucked Ireland into a stifling hole from which Joe Schmidt's temporarily creaking ship could not escape. The end game against Samoa was masterful, albeit blessed by the crooked feed call, was only topped by Sunday's thriller in Yokohama.

The main man: dead heat between Kotaro Matsushima and Cheslin Kolbe with an honourable mention for the mesmerising Fijian Semi Radradra. Matsushima and Kolbe are on a collision course to see who becomes the Bryan Habana of this World Cup; a bonafide global star.

The Irish man: Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan have all shown up but it has to be Russian captain Vasya Artemyev. His career as a rugby ambassador is only just beginning.

Press relations award: It's not even close. The Japanese volunteers could even teach the selfless GAA mothers and mentors a thing or two about guiding the culturally illiterate where we need to go. They have been warm-hearted, helpful and always close to hand. Honourable mention to Samoa PRO Tuipola Evan Charlton who proves that a light touch can go a very long way.

Best media angle: plenty of brilliant journalism on offer but for innovation catch The Sydney Morning Herald's Georgina Robinson's live Twitter feed walking up to stadiums.

Special mention award: The Shinkansen. Japan's bullet trains have made riding the rails an unadulterated joy. Leg room, plug sockets, work desks and reclinable seats.

Quote of the week

"Nothing [goes through your head]. It's mad when you see stuff back and you've no clue when or how this happened. When you are carrying the ball you are trying to win the initial contact. Keep your feet under you. Keep pumping the legs. It's mad, really, when you're in that moment. It floats away after." - Tadhg Furlong, tighthead, try scorer, poet.

By the numbers

294 - CJ Stander minutes in all four Pool A games (58 carries for 123 metres and just the 36 tackles).

Cheika v Eddie Jones

The unabashed joy expressed by Eddie Jones in the wake of their match against France being postponed due to Typhoon Hagibis has swelled the army of ABE (anyone but England) supporters. Which is a pity because this is as likable an English gang as we are ever likely to encounter.

But Jones will be Jones. It has Michael Cheika looking like the good guy when asked about Jones’s wise crack. “Well, I saw he was saying that that [cancellation]would be an advantage and the ‘typhoon gods’ were smiling on him,” Cheika said. “I suppose they better win. They’ve had the best preparation according to the coach so they’d better go out there and win. If that’s the best preparation we’ll see how we go.”

The Wallabies face England in Oita next Saturday.

Speaking of natural disasters, spare a thought for the people of Kamaishi. The area, devastated by the 2011 tsunami, as Keith Duggan wrote about on Saturday, were supposed to host Namibia and Canada in their gorgeous little Recovery Memorial Stadium but the threat of landslides and flooding led to it becoming the third cancelled game at Japan 2019.

Canadian players rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into the clean up operation. The game can never be replayed. Or can it? It would take a lot of joined up thinking but a stand-alone fixture outside of typhoon season would be a special happening. Just an idea.