Two Rugby World Cup games pitting England against France and New Zealand against Italy have been called off as the powerful Typhoon Hagibis approaches Japan this weekend, organizers confirmed.
The decision means both matches will be considered scoreless draws, with all teams receiving two points. England and France have already qualified for the quarter finals, but the pool game in Yokohama was due to decide the group winners and their opponents in the next round. England will now advance to face the runner-up in Group D, set to be either Wales or Australia. New Zealand top their group, with South Africa advancing in second place.
“Public and team safety was our utmost priority as well as ensuring a consistent, fair and equitable outcome for all teams,” World Rugby said in a statement. All fans with match tickets will receive full refunds.
A final decision on Sunday’s games, including a crucial match between hosts Japan and Scotland, will be made that morning after a thorough assessment, organizers said. A cancellation of the clash would mean Japan progresses to the quarter-finals for the first time at the expense of Scotland, depending on the result of a match between Ireland and Samoa. That game, on Saturday, will proceed as scheduled as the venue is in southern Japan’s Fukuoka, away from the storm’s path.
Despite the unprecedented decision to cancel the games, organizers maintained that it was the right decision to hold the World Cup in Japan, and praised the hosts for the tournament so far. Japan is regularly hit with typhoons from July to October, though it is most common for the storms to near the country in August and September.
The large and violent Typhoon Hagibis, currently in the northwest Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo, is expected to be the biggest storm of the Pacific season. The storm is packing winds of up to 270 kilometers (168 miles) per hour, and while it will weaken as it approaches Japan this weekend, it is still expected to cause very strong winds and flooding across large parts of the country.
Trains could be shut down across Tokyo, East Japan Railway Co. said, a decision that would affect millions. The Shinkansen bullet train is also likely to be affected, while the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Suzuka could also be impacted. A similarly powerful typhoon in September left thousands of homes without power for weeks and stranded passengers at Narita International Airport.
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