England vs France at real risk of becoming first Rugby World Cup match to be cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis

The strongest tropical cyclone in 60 years is expected to hit Yokohama on Saturday where England are due to face France, while Tokyo was shaken by two earthquake tremors on Wednesday descending the World Cup into chaos

Jack de Menezes
@JackdeMenezes,Duncan Bech
Wednesday 09 October 2019 09:47
England through to Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

The Rugby World Cup could descend into chaos this weekend, with England’s final pool game against France at risk of becoming the first in the tournament’s history to be cancelled.

The imminent threat of Super Typhoon Hagibis to the Yokohama and Tokyo region has World Rugby on red alert, with the weekend’s World Cup fixtures as well as the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka at risk of being cancelled, and to add to the current weather fears there were two earthquakes in the Tokyo area on Wednesday, with a 4.5-magnitude tremor early in the morning followed by a smaller evening tremor.

Across the eight previous World Cups, not a single game has had to be cancelled before, but unless Hagibis weakens considerably on its approach to the main Japanese island of Honshu or changes direction, Saturday’s Pool C finale looks certain to be heavily affected.

Before the World Cup started, Typhoon Faxai left three people dead in what was the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 60 years, with nearly 1,000,000 households destroyed by the tropical cyclone.

According to satellite imagery, Hagibis is considerably larger than Faxai and of similar or higher intensity after going through “among the most explosive rapid intensifications of any tropical cyclone on record anywhere on Earth”, though the hope is that it’ll weaken the close it gets to making landfall.

England were delayed upon their arrival in Japan by Faxai, with the squad left stranded at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport for six hours due to the travel chaos caused by the 15th typhoon of the season.

But despite the imminent threat of having their final pool match cancelled – which would secure England first place in Pool C and a quarter-final against the runners-up in Pool D – the England camp is remaining relaxed on the imminent threat.

"One thing we really pride ourselves on is being adaptable and flexible for anything that may throw us off," defence coach John Mitchell said.

"If there are other factors that are outside our control, then we'll find another way to prepare very well.

"Ultimately though, we're looking forward to playing France and that's where our focus is.

"It's where our preparation is totally focused and we don't let that noise enter our preparation. It is not something we decide - it's World Rugby's decision."

England may see their game against France cancelled on Saturday

England are due to announce their team to face France on Thursday morning and even if the game does go ahead, Billy Vunipola, Joe Marler and Jack Nowell will almost certainly be missing.

Vunipola, the Saracens No 8 Eddie Jones dare not lose, twisted his left ankle against Argentina last Saturday and it is hoped he will recover in time for the quarter-final against Wales or Australia.

Marler and Nowell were also hurt against the Pumas and England are unlikely to take any risks with their respective back and hamstring injuries.

Returning to the treatment room is a bitter pill for Nowell to swallow after he made his long-awaited comeback at Tokyo Stadium following months of battling an ankle problem.

The Exeter wing also had his appendix removed during the squad's heat camp in Treviso in early September, further delaying his recovery.

"It's just a little hamstring injury. Don't get me wrong, Jack will be getting slightly frustrated," Mitchell said.

"We feel for him because he had the return from the injury he had in the Premiership final, then appendicitis and then another little niggle.

"But you saw a moment of brilliance for his try against Argentina - that upper body strength and power - and he will have taken a lot of satisfaction from that."

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