The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan has been plunged into chaos by the approach of Typhoon Hagibis ahead of the final round of pool fixtures.
Two games have already been cancelled and a crunch match between Japan and Scotland hangs in the balance. For an explanation on how the cancellation has impacted the pool standings, read our explainer here.
The cancellation chaos has caused much consternation. The tournament rules, published prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, explained the contingency plans for worst case scenarios in detail.
Weather happens. And while some have pontificated that perhaps countries susceptible to severe climate shouldn’t be considered for hosting tournaments – or not host them during the wettest time of the year – the debate has often been bereft of nuance.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph responded to suggestions that the cancellation of his side’s match against Scotland would “undermine the integrity of the competition” by saying:
“These reports have undermined the significance the match holds for Japan,” he said. “We have won three Tests so far and put ourselves in the best position in the pool. I would like to remind everyone that this is not a fluke but is down to a lot of hard work by a number of people.
“This team has been in camp for the last 240 days. While the majority of the players are professionals with company-based teams, as a rugby team Japan is amateur. Other than $100 a day [expenses], no one gets paid for being in camp. I will let you guys do the maths and make comparisons with other teams.”
The logic to not have reserve days in place for the pool stages – considering the weather and considering just how critical the latter fixtures in the tournament can be – is debatable.
But, dems the rules – as the saying goes.
And while it is unprecedented for a Rugby World Cup, it is not unprecedented for the sport.
Just this year a Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Highlanders was cancelled in the wake of a terror attack in Christchurch.
In the Rugby World Cup itself, the semi-final between South Africa and France in Durban was very nearly called off. Torrential rain in Durban left the pitch drenched – only an epic clean up operation ensured that things went ahead. Were that match to be cancelled, France would have progressed to the final based on their superior disciplinary record.
Also in 2019, Russia vs Georgia was cancelled due to Russian authorities raising concerns over “demonstrations by radical persons” in protest against Russian powers that be.
In 2012, Ireland vs France was called off in Paris because of a frozen pitch – just two minutes into the game.
And there have been others, too. While it is indeed highly unusual for rugby matches to be called off because of the weather – it’s a winter sport after all – there’s more to cancelling fixtures than firing angry opinions into the ether of the internet.