By Stanley Szecowka
Disappointed sports-loving friends from Bahrain, all set to fly off on a Rugby World Cup adventure to Japan, decided to cancel their flights early today after their plans were dashed by Typhoon Hagibis.
British expats Paul Cockerill, Steve Holland, Martin Birch, Gareth Brown and Neil Lewis had their hearts set on watching England play France on Saturday and Scotland play Japan on Sunday - and were all set to make a 20-hour journey.
Mr Cockerill said: “We are obviously all gutted having to cancel. We made the final decision this morning at 6.30am after the announcement that World Rugby had confirmed the cancellation.”
It is the first time in the competition’s 32-year history matches have been called off prior to kick-off. As well as the England-France clash, the New Zealand versus Italy game was also kicked into touch.
A decision on Scotland against Japan will be taken on Sunday, the day it is scheduled to take place, with Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin saying that game will also be cancelled if conditions are still bad.
He said: “We won’t treat that match any differently if it can’t be played.
“Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season and is highly likely to cause considerable disruption in the Tokyo, Yokohama and City of Toyota areas throughout Saturday, including likely public transport shutdown or disruption.
“It is an exceptional, complex and rapidly evolving situation and team and public safety is the number one priority. All fans with tickets for a cancelled match will receive a full refund for the face value of their match tickets.”
The Bahrain party had splashed out BD320 each on tickets for the two games they were hoping to watch. They will also receive a refund for their Cathay Pacific flights, which would have included a transit in Hong Kong.
“I would obviously want the Scotland game to play out to conclusion as it has all the signs to be a great game,” said Mr Cockerill, managing director, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, at Altrad.
“But no-one can predict the weather and every team signed up to the rules.”
On the weather front, Typhoon Hagibis is bringing 160mph violent winds, gusting to nearly 200mph (hurricane equivalent of a Category 5), and it is forecast to make landfall near Tokyo on Saturday evening.
On the rugby front, the cancellation means the games will go down as 0-0 draws and tens of thousands of fans will miss out watching either live, at home or in sports lounges across the world.
In Pool C, France will be denied the chance to win the group by beating England, though the latter were favourites to win the game.
It also means New Zealand win Pool B and Italy are out of the World Cup. Italy could theoretically still have qualified for the quarter finals by beating New Zealand, as improbable as this was.
And it means we now have a clearer picture of the quarter final line-ups, barring some extremely unlikely results.
Wales will play France, unless they inconceivably lose to Uruguay, and England will play Australia.
New Zealand and South Africa will each play one of Japan, Scotland and Ireland. Ireland’s match against Samoa will go ahead as scheduled.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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