Scotland threaten legal action as Rugby World Cup nightmare unravels
Typhoon concerns for pool A decider spark a ‘furious row’ between the SRU and World Rugby in Japan
As Typhoon Hagibis nears Japan there is a storm already raging as officials from the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) allegedly threaten to take legal action against the Rugby World Cup tournament organisers.
In what is turning into a nightmare of unprecedented proportions for World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, The Daily Telegraph says that a “furious row has broken out in Japan” between the SRU and World Rugby after a “series of lengthy and bad-tempered meetings”.
The SRU’s chief executive, Mark Dodson, is said to be “in a state of apoplexy” at the prospect of Sunday’s crucial encounter with Japan being called off at short notice, which would mean the hosts progressing to the quarter-finals at the expense of the Scots.
The Telegraph claims the Scots’ legal advice “is that under tournament rules there is flexibility to adjust the tournament schedule in cases of force majeure, and that the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis clearly qualifies as such”.
On Thursday the England vs. France and Italy vs. New Zealand matches, scheduled for Saturday, were cancelled, and a decision on Sunday’s Japan vs. Scotland clash will be made on the morning of the match.
That is unacceptable to Scotland who want to know why the game couldn’t have been postponed for 24 hours.
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this game on,” an SRU spokesman told the Telegraph. “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.”
That last sentiment was echoed by Italy captain Sergio Parisse, who reacted with fury to the cancellation of his side’s game against New Zealand, thereby denying the Italians an outside chance of reaching the quarter-final.
“It is ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made,” blasted rugby union’s most capped international.
“It is ridiculous that there was no plan B, because it isn’t news that typhoons hit Japan… if New Zealand needed four or five points against us it would not have been cancelled.”
One person who hasn’t extended much sympathy to the Scots is England head coach Eddie Jones.
“You have to accumulate points in your games to put yourself in the right position,” he said of the Scots’ plight, a reference to the fact that they lost their opening pool match to Ireland.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen made the same point when asked about Italy’s predicament. “If you want to be really ruthless, then it’s all about making sure you win the games on the way through because everyone knew this could be a possibility,” Hansen told reporters.
Nonetheless, Parisse’s comments will have struck a nerve with World Rugby and have left neutral fans asking: would the tournament organisers have so readily cancelled matches if they risked losing the revenue that nations like England, New Zealand and France bring to the table?
And, as the Scots are asking, would they not have come up with a Plan B were it the tournament hosts and not they who are on the brink of elimination?
Scotland name team to face Japan
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made 12 changes to his team for the match against Japan on Sunday (11.45am start UK time).
Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw returns to captain the side with Stuart McInally named on the bench. Stand-off Finn Russell, back-row Blade Thomson, lock Jonny Gray, full-back Stuart Hogg, centre Sam Johnson and prop Allan Dell are also selected in the starting XV.
Townsend said: “The opportunity to face the hosts in such a decisive pool match will be a unique occasion and should be a great spectacle.
“Games of this magnitude don’t come around very often in a playing career so we will be giving it everything to make sure it is a memorable match.”
- Scotland starting XV: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Darcy Graham, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Grant Gilchrist, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Blade Thomson
- Replacements: 16. Stuart McInally, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Scott Cummings, 20. Ryan Wilson, 21. George Horne, 22. Pete Horne, 23. Blair Kinghorn
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Remaining RWC pool fixtures
Pool fixtures conclude on 13 October and the quarter-finals will be held on 19-20 October. All times below are UK.
- Saturday 12 October: Ireland vs. Samoa (11.45am; Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka; ITV)
- Sunday 13 October: Japan vs. Scotland (11.45am; International Stadium, Yokohama; ITV)
- Saturday 12 October: New Zealand vs. Italy - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each)
- Sunday 13 October: Namibia vs. Canada (4.15am; Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi; ITV)
- Saturday 12 October: England vs. France - cancelled (result declared a 0-0 draw - two points each)
- Sunday 13 October: USA vs. Tonga (6.45am; Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka; ITV)
- Friday 11 October: Australia vs. Georgia (11.15am; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka; ITV 4)
- Sunday 13 October: Wales vs. Uruguay (9.15am; Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto; ITV)