The 2019 Rugby World Cup has been thrown into chaos and England’s crucial clash with France has been cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
But England coach Eddie Jones says he remains “absolutely excited” by the prospect of his side’s knockout pathway, seeing the extra weekend off as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.
The typhoon is set to hit Japan this weekend and wreak havoc across the country. It is expected to be the worst tropical cyclone in 60 years and bring winds of 160 miles per hour. England were to play Les Bleus this Saturday at the Yokohama International Stadium.
But the game has been cancelled with both countries awarded two points to each, with the match officially registered as a 0-0 draw. That means England will finish top of Group C and will most likely play Australia in the quarter-finals. France will finish second and are to set to meet Wales in the final eight.
The typhoon is expected to clear by Sunday morning, but a decision on whether Scotland’s vital Pool A match against Japan will be played has yet to be made. If the match is cancelled, Scotland will be eliminated.
“The decision to cancel matches has not been taken lightly," Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin said.
"It has been made with the best interest of team, public, and tournament volunteer safety as a priority based on expert advice. We are continuing to review Sunday's matches and make every effort to ensure they are played as scheduled.
“A thorough assessment of the venues will take place after the typhoon has passed before a final decision is made on Sunday morning," he added. “The risks are just too challenging to enable us to deliver a fair and consistent contingency approach for all teams and participants and, importantly, to provide confidence in the safety of spectators.”
The Pool B match between the All Blacks and Italy has also been cancelled, meaning Italy have been eliminated from the tournament. New Zealand have finished top of Pool B, and will play the runner-up of Pool A, either Ireland, Japan or Scotland, while South Africa have finished second and will face the winner of Pool A.
Ireland’s vital clash with Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday is set to go ahead at this stage. The decision to cancel matches means the likes of England, France and New Zealand will have a longer rest period than Wales and Australia before the quarter-finals. While that may appear to be an advantage, it could also lead to fears that they could be underdone and not as battle-hardened as their opponents ahead of the knockout games.
World Rugby COO and #RWC2019 Tournament Director Alan Gilpin gives an update regarding the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on this weekend's pool matches at Rugby World Cup 2019.
However, England coach Eddie Jones believes the cancelled game will not have a negative affect on his team.
“We'll do a bit of light training Friday, have a good hit out Saturday, have some beef Saturday night, a few beers, and get ready for the week ahead,” he said.
"We can do a lot of different things. We are not concerned at all, we are excited, absolutely excited as it’s a great opportunity. Who would have thought we would have two relatively easy games, one tough game and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final. So someone is smiling on us – the typhoon gods maybe?
"It's not something you can control. This is the situation. I think it's a wonderful World Cup. You can't help typhoons, we would all like to think we've got the power above and beyond what's in the world at the moment, but we don't and these things happen and you just ride with it."
Tournament director Gilpin said organisers have no regrets about holding the tournament in Japan during typhoon season.
“What we have seen over the last three weeks in every respect vindicates the right decision to be here in Japan," he said.
“It's been an incredible tournament on and off the field and we always knew there were going to be risks. It is rare for a typhoon of this magnitude to cause this impact this late in the typhoon season.”