TOKYO — Two Rugby World Cup games including the Pool C decider between England and France have been cancelled because of the anticipated impact of Typhoon Hagibis and tournament organizers aren’t ruling out further cancellations.
Japan’s weather agency is warning the powerful typhoon may bring torrential rain and strong winds to central parts of the country between Saturday and Sunday, during the last round of World Cup group games.
The England vs. France game at Yokohama near Tokyo and the Pool B game between New Zealand and Italy in the city of Toyota on Saturday have been cancelled on safety grounds.
It’s the first time that games have been cancelled at rugby’s showpiece tournament. All games cancelled because of weather are logged as scoreless draws and each team will get two competition points.
The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening danger. Airlines and train services anticipate cancellations.
World Rugby tournament director Alan Gilpin said Thursday that organizers “looked exhaustingly over the last few days at all of the options,” including moving games to other venues.
“We’ve taken the very difficult decision but right decision to cancel matches in affected areas,” he said. “We don’t think it undermines (the quarterfinals) at all.”
Sunday’s crucial Pool A game between Japan and Scotland is still going ahead, but organizers could still cancel the game. If so, it would mean host Japan and Ireland clinch quarterfinal spots in that group and Scotland misses out.
England and France had both already qualified for the quarterfinals and their game would have decided who topped the pool. New Zealand qualifies for the quarterfinals and Italy is eliminated after that cancellation, but the All Blacks were expected to win easily and Italy was effectively out anyway.
Typhoon Hagibis had winds gusting up to 270 kilometres per hour (168 mph) Thursday morning. It is expected to weaken over cooler waters as it nears Japan’s main island.
The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast landfall between Saturday and Sunday and urged people to take precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening danger. Japan’s central Pacific coast may see torrential rains beginning Friday and the high waves and tides may cause flooding.
Airlines and train services anticipate cancellations.
Japan is regularly hit by Pacific storms. Typhoon Faxai caused massive power outages in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo in September. Typhoon Jebi flooded a terminal and a runway at Kansai International Airport last year.
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John Pye, The Associated Press