Around the Cup: Namibia-Canada cancelled, Scotland-Japan in the balance

Rugby World Cup
by RUGBY.com.au staff

There's plenty going on around Japan as the Rugby World Cup rolls on.

Check back here for all the latest updates from around the Cup.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 13

Rugby World Cup organisers on Sunday announced cancellation of the match between Namibia and Canada due to Typhoon Hagibis but said they were "optimistic" the others could go ahead.

"We were left with no option but to cancel the match on safety grounds,"

said tournament director Alan Gilpin, who had already been forced to cancel two other matches as Hagibis approached.

However, Gilpin added: "We remain optimistic that Sunday's remaining matches will go ahead as scheduled in Kumamoto, Hanazono and Yokohama, which are much further south and therefore outside of the impact of the storm conditions this morning."

Cancellation is a blow for the northern town of Kamaishi, whose hosting of World Cup games was a potent symbol of recovery from a 2011 tsunami disaster when it was nearly wiped off the map.

It also robs Namibia of a chance to grab their first World Cup win and end their record run of 22 games at the tournament without a victory. Canada are without a win in their last 10 World Cup matches.

The cancellation means that only one game was held at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium -- Uruguay's stunning, 30-27 upset of Fiji in Pool D.

The stadium, the only purpose-built venue at the World Cup, was built on the site of a school which was the scene for the "Miracle of Kamaishi", when more than 400 children sprinted into the mountains to safety.

"Our hearts go out to the teams and also their fans, but also the people of Kamaishi, who have been incredible during what has been a special journey in recent years," said Gilpin.

"Nobody will be more disappointed than them, but also nobody would have better empathy with the decision."

  All eyes are now on whether the do-or-die match between hosts Japan and Scotland in Yokohama will go ahead.

World Rugby said on Sunday morning that "a detailed assessment is under way at Yokohama International Stadium for today’s Pool A match between Japan and Scotland, and an announcement will be made at the conclusion of that important process".

SATURDAY OCTOBER 12

Rugby World Cup organisers warned Namibia and Canada about the "potential of cancellation" of their final pool game as Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan on Saturday.

The governing body has already been forced to cancel two games -- England v France and New Zealand v Italy -- over the powerful typhoon, which has left one person dead and at least three missing.

"We have advised the Namibia and Canada teams of the current situation and potential of cancellation, and our message to fans not currently in Kamaishi is not to travel before confirmation of the match status following a full assessment of the venue and associated infrastructure early on Sunday morning," a World Rugby statement said.

It added that a decision on Sunday's match in Kamaishi, a victim of Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, would be made after an inspection at 6:00 am (2100 GMT Saturday).

Cancellation would be a blow for Kamaishi, whose hosting of World Cup games was a potent symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster when it was nearly wiped off the map.

It would also rob Namibia of a chance to grab their first World Cup win and end their record run of 22 games at the tournament without a victory. Canada are without a win in their last 10 World Cup matches.

A satellite picture of Typhoon Hagibis at 10am JST on Saturday. Photo: Japan Meteorological AgencyRugby World Cup officials said they would inspect venues for Sunday's matches immediately after Typhoon Hagibis has passed before deciding whether they can go ahead, as the crunch Japan-Scotland game in Yokohama hangs in the balance.

As one of the most powerful storms in decades swirls towards Japan, governing body World Rugby said on Saturday: "Our primary consideration is the safety of everyone.

"We will undertake detailed venue inspections as soon as practically possible after the typhoon has passed and an update will be published as soon as that process has been undertaken in the morning," the statement added.

World Rugby has already axed two matches scheduled for Saturday -- New Zealand v Italy and England v France -- in the first cancellations in the World Cup's 32-year history.

Four matches are slated for Sunday including Japan and Scotland's high-stakes showdown in Pool A, which remains undecided heading into the final weekend of group games.

Canada are due to play Namibia in the eastern town of Kamaishi, which was devastated in the 2011 tsunami and could still be affected by the storm on Sunday.

The USA play Tonga near Osaka, which should have seen the worst of the storm pass by Sunday. Wales face Uruguay in the country's far southwest, which is out of the path of the storm.

But the match everyone is interested in is hosts Japan against Scotland, scheduled to be played in Yokohama near Tokyo at 7:45pm (1045 GMT).

If current forecasts are correct, Hagibis will be well into the sea east of Japan by then but organisers will need to assess any potential damage to the venue and also judge transport disruption.

The match is crucial as Japan aim to make it into their first World Cup quarter-final, which they will guarantee if they avoid defeat to the Scots.

If the match is cancelled, it will be classed as a 0-0 draw and both teams will get two points, sending Scotland home.

Even the possibility of a cancellation has sparked a row. Scotland threatened legal action if they were eliminated without playing the key match, prompting a stern response from World Rugby which stressed safety was paramount.

Hagibis has also disrupted the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, where Saturday's qualifying session has been moved to race day on Sunday.

The typhoon is forecast to crash into central or eastern Japan early Saturday evening, packing maximum gusts of 216 kilometres per hour (134 miles per hour) Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Hagibis is forecast to be the first storm rated 'very strong' to hit the nation's main island of Honshu since 1991, when Japan's category system was introduced.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 11

ENGLAND

England coach Eddie Jones insists Scotland will have only themselves to blame if they are knocked out of the Rugby World Cup, as Typhoon Hagibis threatens the Scots' game against Japan.

Jones, who spent many years in Japan as coach of their national team, said the situation should not have come as a surprise to the Scots, who could see themselves exiting the competition if their match on Sunday is cancelled.

"We've been talking about it all the time, about the possibility that this was going to happen... It's typhoon season here and you've got to be prepared for it," the Australian told reporters.

"We had an idea it could happen and therefore you have to accumulate points in your games to put yourself in the right position in case that happened," added Jones, whose England team won all three matches to top Pool C.

Tournament organisers took the unprecedented step at a Rugby World Cup to cancel Saturday's matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy on safety grounds, with the powerful Hagibis set to strike Tokyo.

"This is supposed to be a big typhoon, so I don't see any other option that the organisers had," said Jones.

Scotland find themselves in a precarious situation after losing their opener 27-3 to Ireland.

Unless Ireland fail to register a point in their match against Samoa on Saturday, the Scots will need to beat hosts Japan in Yokohama on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals.

But if their fixture is scratched due to the typhoon, two points from a draw will send them home barring a Samoa shock on Saturday.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said: "If you want to be really ruthless, then it's all about making sure you win the games on the way through because everyone knew this could be a possibility."

Scotland bosses are reportedly looking into taking legal action should their match be cancelled.

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand have rejected accusations of preferential treatment over their cancelled final World Cup pool match, with senior lock Sam Whitelock saying "rugby is just a small thing" as Typhoon Hagidis steams towards Japan.

Italian captain Sergio Parisse was furious after the Azzurri were robbed of their last chance of making the quarter-finals when the match was called off, claiming it would have been played if the All Blacks had needed to win.

The cancellation of Pool B's All Blacks-Italy match, as well as England v France, both scheduled for Saturday, was taken for safety reasons as Hagibis, packing winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour (155 mph), takes aim at Tokyo and Yokohama.

The critical Scotland v Japan clash to determine the outcome of Pool A is also under threat.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said for the Italy match to have gone ahead "we would have rather played Friday, but it wasn't our choice, it was out of our control".

World Rugby has denied favouritism, saying it "extensively explored all options" to ensure "a consistent, fair and equitable outcome for all teams".

Parisse labelled the unprecedented World Cup cancellations as "ridiculous".

The matches go down as scoreless draws, eliminating the Italians and leaving them furious.

Italy needed to beat New Zealand for the first time, and with a bonus point, to qualify from Pool B and while that was highly unlikely, Parisse argued they at least deserved a shot.

"If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled," he fumed.

Whitelock claimed the All Blacks wanted to play but "we don't make those decisions -- it's come from higher up. Maybe ask those guys".

The long-serving Canterbury Crusaders lock has experienced the cancellation of Super Rugby matches because of tragic events -- the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, in which 185 people died and the mosque shootings early this year which claimed 51 lives.

"I've had a couple of Super Rugby games cancelled, with the earthquake and the shooting, and both those games you understand why. Rugby is just a small thing," he said.

"Sometimes the right thing is not playing. There would be nothing worse than if we did play and people were getting hurt. That's the right thing.

"We've listened to advice from above and we can't change it, so we just have to play the cards that have been dealt to us."

THURSDAY OCTOBER 10

Georgian star Mamuka Gorgodze has called for more Tests between rugby's mid-tier nations, as well as clashes with Tier Ones.

Georgia has pushed for inclusion in the Six Nations in recent years, a prospect that has been rejected, but Gorgodze said he didn't believe that was the solution to their problesm.

Instead, the man nicknamed "Gorgodzilla" said more Tests between the stronger nations of that second tier should be encouraged regularly.

"Absolutely, that has to change," he said.

"I am not really a fan of the debate surrounding whether we should be in Six Nations or not.

"Personally, I think we need to find something in between Tier 1 and Tier 2.

"For example, we need to play more teams like Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the USA, Canada, Italy and even Scotland.

"We need to progress against teams like this and then we can think about playing more big Tier 1 teams."

Gorgodze said he was looking forward to taking on the Wallabies on Friday night, the country's first clash in history.

"Australia is a huge team. We are all excited and there is nothing to lose. You can't not be excited at a World Cup but to play Australia is something special," he said.

"I have a huge respect for them and I'm looking forward to testing my ageing muscles against the young Australians."

Gorgodze came out of retirement to play for Georgia in this tournament and with this weekend's match looming as his second finale, he said there wasn't much extra emotion this week.

"I am already used to the feeling now, it's been two years that I have evacuated all these emotions the last time I retired, so for me it is not going to be particularly emotional. I don't feel any pressure or sadness."

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9

CANADA

Canadian forward Josh Larsen was red-carded for a dangerous cleanout on  Thomas du TOit in their 66-7 loss to South Africa.

While it was a clear infringement, what Larsen did post-match was all class.

The Canadian went into the South African change rooms and apologised to du Toit in front of the entire team.

Good stuff.

ENGLAND

England will not suffer from any loss of momentum if this weekend's Rugby World Cup clash with France is cancelled due to violent weather, prop Dan Cole insisted Wednesday.

The heavyweight Pool C game on Saturday and hosts Japan's crunch Pool A showdown with Scotland a day later, both at Yokohama, are in danger of being washed out by an approaching typhoon.

But Cole promised that England coach Eddie Jones would have the players match-sharp for the quarter-finals if the fixture is called off -- which would see England advance as group winners along with France.

"I think if anything does happen, I'm sure Eddie and the staff will be primed," he said.

"We won't just be sat twiddling our thumbs in the hotel room. We'll be out working and making sure we maintain our sharpness throughout the tournament."

TUESDAY OCTOBER 8

RUSSIA

Russia wants to use their World Cup finale to help promote rugby back home. Photo: Getty ImagesRussia's final World Cup game against Scotland on Wednesday is an opportunity for the team to raise the profile and spur development of the sport back home, according to assistant coach Alexander Voytov.

Russia will be the first team to wrap up their campaign in Japan after their Pool A match against the Scots, who must win in Shizuoka to remain in contention for the quarter-finals ahead of their last match with Japan on Sunday.

The Russians have lost all three of their games so far but Voytov, a former lock who played 73 matches for the 'Bears' and was in their 2011 World Cup squad, was hopeful their final game would be a catalyst for the sport to grow.

"We started developing rugby very fast now in Russia but we have a lack of coaches," he told reporters in Shizuoka on Tuesday.

"Yes we invite a lot of foreign coaches but we need a lot of young Russian coaches," added the 37-year-old, who retired from the national side in 2014.

"In our team we have a lot of players who are finishing their careers and the main thing is that when they go back to Russia and their clubs they will spread this knowledge about.

"Hopefully after the tournament some of them will become coaches because they now know how to work at the top level and what they need to achieve and can show by example."

Russia only qualified for the World Cup after Romania, Belgium and Spain were deducted points for fielding ineligible players but they have been difficult to break down in Japan and showed they can compete at the highest level.

While all of their team play professionally -- the majority in their domestic league -- their tactics have been centred around a combative pack and conservative kicking game.

Voytov, however, was keen for his players to show they could play attacking, running rugby against Scotland.

Inside centre Dmitry Gerasimov was glad the coaches had decided to let them loose in their final game.

"This is the World Cup and we have scored just the one try," he said through an interpreter. "The rest of the points are penalties.

"We want to show what we believe we can do in our rugby."

MONDAY OCTOBER 7

Rugby World Cup organisers warned Monday that a powerful typhoon forming to the south of Japan could bring fierce winds and torrential rain over the last weekend of the pool stages.

Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) is tracking Typhoon Hagibis, expected to develop into the highest level of "violent", which is due to start hitting the southern island of Kyushu around October 12.

"We have not issued any warning yet as it is still far from the Japanese archipelago. But it could be the strongest to hit Japan this year," a JMA official told AFP.

There are two World Cup fixtures on the island at that time -- a potentially critical Pool A Ireland-Samoa clash in Fukuoka on October 12 and Wales-Uruguay in Pool D in Kumamoto on October 13.

The latest information from the Rugby World Cup weather advisors is that "the typhoon is tracking in a north-westerly direction and could bring high winds and heavy rain to southern Japan on October 12 and 13", organisers said in a statement.

They said it was "too early" to assess the exact trajectory of the storm and whether it would impact the game, but stressed they had a "robust contingency programme" in place if the games were affected.

Games can be moved to a different venue if it looks like a typhoon will prevent them from being played.

However, if a match during the pool phase has to be cancelled, it counts as a 0-0 draw.

This could prove costly to Ireland, who are in a fierce three-way battle with Japan and Scotland for a quarter-final place and would be expected to beat Samoa with relative ease.

Wales will qualify for the last eight if they beat Fiji on Wednesday but a draw against Uruguay could jeopardise their ability to top their pool.

ARGENTINA

Tomas Lavanini has been banned for four matches for this tackle on Owen Farrell. Photo: Getty ImagesArgentina lock Tomas Lavanini has been handed a four-match ban for the head-high tackle on Owen Farrell that earned him a red card in the Rugby World Cup Pool C clash on Saturday.

Lavanini crashed his shoulder into the jaw of the England captain in the 17th minute of the match and it proved a decisive moment with the Pumas going down 39-10 at Tokyo Stadium to leave their hopes of qualifying for the last eight in tatters.

The big second row forward, who wept as he left the pitch, was also sent off against South Africa in 2017 and had received five previous yellow cards in Tests.

"Lavanini admitted the act of foul play and accepted that it warranted a red card," read the judgement.

"He accepted that given his previous disciplinary record he was not entitled to the full 50 percent discount from the six-game entry point."

France's victory over Tonga on Sunday means Argentina will be going home after their final pool match against the United States on Wednesday in Kumagaya.

Lavanini will miss that game and three matches for his English club Northampton Saints.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 6

ITALY

Two Italian props were handed three-match suspensions for this spear tackle. Photo: Getty ImagesTwo Italian props Sunday received three-match bans for a joint tip-tackle on South African Duane Vermeulen that leaves coach Conor O'Shea with a front-row headache for his last Rugby World Cup match.

Prop Andrea Lovotti received a red card on the field for picking Vermeulen up and dumping him on his head -- an act branded as "crass stupidity" by O'Shea, who saw his team go on to lose 49-3.

Replacement prop Nicola Quaglio escaped on-field sanction but was later cited for his part in the same tackle. He admitted it was an act of foul play, but argued it did not warrant a red card.

However, the committee decided that "the dynamics of the tackle were affected by the actions of both players" and banned Quaglio for three games.

Quaglio was on the pitch as a replacement for Marco Ricconi, who himself came off the bench for prop Simone Ferrari. The dearth of specialist front-row forwards resulted in uncontested scrums for most of the match.

O'Shea faces a selection crisis for Saturday's must-win clash with New Zealand.

"We've a good few injuries, a good few knocks and bruises from today, especially at tight-head. We'll see what the best 23 we can get fit and on the pitch for next week," admitted the Irishman after the South Africa match.

ARGENTINA

Argentina scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli will take no further part in the Rugby World Cup after suffering a calf injury in the 39-10 loss to England on Saturday, the Argentina Rugby Union said.

Cubelli will be replaced by his Jaguares teammate Gonzalo Bertranou, who will join the squad in Kumagaya on Monday for the Pumas' final Pool C match against the United States.

Argentina's hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals for the fourth straight World Cup were shattered by the loss to England, which came after Tomas Lavanini was shown a red card in the 17th minute for a dangerous high tackle.

Lavanini will have a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday and given World Rugby's crackdown on any contact with the head of an opponent, the big lock faces at least a three-match ban.

Argentina's slim hopes of progressing now rest on Tonga upsetting France later on Sunday but Matias Orlando said the players were focused only on giving a good account of themselves against the Americans on Wednesday.

"It isn't the time to be searching for miracles in the results of others," he said after Saturday's match at Tokyo Stadium.

"We have one match ahead of us and we must represent our country to the best of our ability. Today it was tough because we faced a good opponent who was clinical."

Ledesma said Lavanini's dismissal in Saturday's loss to England had effectively ended his team's hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, but he had no problem with the referee's decision.

Lock Lavanini was given his marching orders by Nigel Owens in the 17th minute of the Pool C clash at Tokyo Stadium after driving his shoulder into the jaw of England skipper Owen Farrell.

"It had a big impact because it was early in the game and I thought it was fair," coach Ledesma told reporters after the 39-10 loss.

"The commitment from the boys was incredible and lasted the whole game. It became too difficult in the second half but they never stopped going."

While England progressed to the quarter-finals with the victory, twice semi-finalists Argentina need Tonga to upset France on Sunday to retain any chance of going through.

Ledesma was clearly not counting on that happening.

"We were not able to meet expectations of our fans so I am disappointed with that," he added.

"But we have to move on and show that never-give-up spirit. We were able to show that today."