England’s Rugby World Cup showdown against France and New Zealand’s clash with Italy have been cancelled due to the pending threat of Typhoon Hagibis.
World Rugby announced the two pool fixtures scheduled for Saturday will not take place on “safety grounds” as the typhoon bears down on Japan, but Ireland’s game against Samoa in Fukuoka is to be played.
Australia’s Pool D finale against Georgia in Shizuoka will also go ahead, while Sunday’s fixtures – including Japan’s meeting with Scotland – are still being reviewed.
Thursday’s statement read: “Based on the latest detailed information from the tournament’s independent weather experts, Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season and is highly likely to cause considerable disruption in the Tokyo, Yokohama and City of Toyota areas throughout Saturday, including likely public transport shutdown or disruption.”
England were set to meet France in their final Pool C game in Yokohama, where top spot was up for grabs at International Stadium Yokohama.
The cancellation – resulting in a 0-0 draw and two points apiece – sees England top the group, meaning Eddie Jones’ side are likely to face Australia in the quarter-finals.
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France finish runners-up in Pool C, with a last-eight battle against Wales awaiting, should the latter top Pool D ahead of the Wallabies by beating Uruguay.
Organisers also scrapped the Pool B meeting between world champions the All Blacks and Italy in Toyota – located in central Japan.
New Zealand have already qualified for the knockout round as pool winners ahead of South Africa and will face the runner-up in Pool A, with Ireland currently occupying second place.
World Rugby chief operating officer and tournament director Alan Gilpin told the media: “This is a complex and dynamic situation which we have been monitoring extremely closely with the assistance of our weather information experts. We are now in a position to accurately predict the likely impact of Typhoon Hagibis on Rugby World Cup fixtures this weekend.
“While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon.
“As a result, we have taken the decision to cancel some matches in order to ensure the safety of all involved. It is the right thing to do, and comes with the support of all stakeholders, including the teams.
“We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first. They will be entitled to a full refund on their match tickets.
“Our message for all fans in Japan for Rugby World Cup is to heed all official advice, stay indoors throughout Saturday and do not attempt to travel on the day.”