Two Rugby World Cup matches have been cancelled this weekend as Typhoon Hagibis bears down on Japan, threatening strong winds and torrential rain.
World Rugby and the tournament’s Japanese organisers said the storm was “highly likely” to cause disruption in Tokyo and surrounding areas, forcing it to cancel Saturday’s Pool C decider between France and England.
The game between defending champions New Zealand and Italy was also called off. Tournament organisers have not ruled out cancelling more games.
“This is a complex and dynamic situation which we have been monitoring extremely closely with the assistance of our weather information experts,” said Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s chief operating officer.
Teams receive two points each for any cancelled games and organisers said fans would be given a full refund for their tickets. It is the first time that World Cup games have been called off.
Hagibis is Japan’s 19th typhoon of the year and is expected to make landfall over the weekend in the Kanto region, which comprises Tokyo and surrounding cities.
The storm — currently over the Philippine Sea, with winds gusting at 270km per hour — is developing into an unusually strong “super typhoon”. The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of wind speeds potentially matching last year’s Typhoon Jebi, which caused at least 11 deaths and led to the complete shutdown of Kansai International Airport, in Osaka bay, for several weeks due to flooding.
The East Japan Railway Company, which operates in the Tokyo area, warned that it may suspend service on Saturday and Sunday. Power and communication companies are bracing for widespread damage to electricity and telephone wires.
Organisers said “every effort” was being made to ensure Sunday’s games, which include the fixture between host nation Japan and Scotland, will go ahead. The typhoon is forecast to be well north of the Yokohama venue by Sunday evening, when the Japan game is due to take place, but the degree of disruption is hard to predict.
The Scots need to beat the Pool A leaders if they are to have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. If the game is cancelled, Japan will go through as winners of the group with Ireland in second place.
England and France are already through to the quarter-finals but the cancellation means England win their group and will face Australia, while France will take on Wales. Italy needed to beat New Zealand to stay in the tournament but are now eliminated.