Scotland match against Japan to go ahead after official verdict amid typhoon
Scotland’s World Cup fate will be decided on the pitch after their win-or-bust showdown with Japan was given the go-ahead following a stadium inspection.
The Dark Blues feared they would be knocked out of the tournament without kicking another ball if the match was cancelled in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis.
But following a “detailed assessment” of the match venue at Yokohama’s International Stadium, the climax to Pool A with the hosts will take place as planned in front of a sell-out 70,000 crowd.
Gregor Townsend’s team need to beat the Brave Blossoms by eight clear points to secure a quarter-final showdown with New Zealand in Tokyo, next Saturday.
In a statement, the tournament organisers said: “The decision was taken following a comprehensive assessment of the venue and associated infrastructure on Sunday morning in partnership with the host city.
“World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee would like to thank everyone involved for their significant efforts to enable the match to be played as scheduled following one of largest and most powerful typhoons to hit Japan in recent years.
“Fans attending Sunday night’s match are advised to check travel operator information before departing and plan to arrive early as it may take longer than usual to enter the stadium.
“Fans should also expect a significantly reduced level of spectator service in terms of catering and merchandise sales owing to limitations on venue staff availability as a result of the typhoon.”
The decision to give the game the green light spares the tournament of a major controversy.
With World Rugby refusing to postpone the match, a cancellation would have seen it declared a draw and Scotland exit the tournament after finishing third in their group behind Ireland and the Japanese.
The Scottish Rugby Union said they would pursue legal action if the governing body did not take measures to move the game away from Hagibis’s path of destruction – a move that sparked an angry response from World Rugby as they criticised Murrayfield chief executive Mark Dodson.
Hagibis – a 1400km-wide super cyclone – was predicted to be the biggest to hit Japan for 51 years.
The latest reports say five people have been killed as a result of the storm with dozens missing after the typhoon smashed into the country’s east coast.
The Yokohama area was forecast to be among the hardest hit along the storm’s trajectory, but in the end the city escaped the worst weather and had returned to calm by around 10pm on Saturday night.
International Stadium staff have spent the morning completing safety checks to ensure the match can go ahead in front of the capacity crowd hoping to see whether it will be hosts who reach the knock-out rounds for the first time or Townsend’s team.
However, while Scotland and Japan will get to decide their fate on the pitch, Namibia and Canada’s meeting in Kamaishi was cancelled after landslides and flooding hit areas near the Recovery Memorial Stadium.
It follows World Rugby’s decision to axe Saturday’s England v France showdown and the New Zealand v Italy clash, which ended the Azzurri’s faint hopes of reaching the last eight.
A Scottish Rugby spokesperson said: “We are pleased our game against Japan is going ahead this evening.
“We would like to thank everyone involved for enabling this match to take place and look forward to playing the Brave Blossoms to conclude our Rugby World Cup Pool.
“It has obviously been an incredibly difficult night across large areas of Japan and Typhoon Hagibis certainly made its presence felt in Yokohama where the team are staying.
“We pass on our best wishes to everyone affected by the storm and our friends in Japan who continue to be great hosts.”