The Breakdown: Typhoon fever hits the World Cup but will it hit Japan

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

So far in history, Hagibis has been famous for two things, and you’ll find both in the Philippines, given it is a Filipino word.

Created in 1947, Hagibis was one of the first Filipino comic book heroes, and thirty years later, Hagibis became the name of a famous band; whose stock trade was 'macho men' songs, according to Wikipedia. They were 'the Village People of the Phillipines', apparently, and yes, they’re still touring.

Hagibis is actually a Filipino word meaning 'speed' or 'velocity' but as far as Rugby World Cup organisers are concerned, as long as it doesn’t extend to 'impact', they’ll be happy.

Right now, Hagibis is also the name of the 'Super Typhoon' brewing up south of Japan, which has been rated as the ‘strongest storm on the planet’ at the moment.

This macho Hagibis has rugby fans in Japan - and in Ireland, Wales, England, France, Uruguay, Samoa and let’s just say everywhere - struck with typhoon fever. 

Suddenly everyone has become intimately acquainted with Japanese weather radars and wind speeds and forecasts and typhoon lingo.

What is known is that Hagibis is, currently, on its way to attend the World Cup.

Rated as ‘violent’ and with winds of up 260km/h, forecasters said the very angry storm could hit Japan’s southern-most island Kyushu on Saturday and Sunday.

Now that could be a problem given there are a few important World Cup fixtures yet to be played - on Japan’s southern-most island on Saturday and Sunday.

Ireland play Samoa on Saturday in Fukuoka and Wales are scheduled to play Uruguay Kunamoto on Sunday.

But those were the early forecasts. By Tuesday, things had changed.

On Tuesday, the storm altered course and weather models began forecasting that Hagibis would spin further north and hit Yokohama and Tokyo, where England-France and Japan-Scotland are due to be played over the weekend.

Australia and Georgia is played in the path too in Shizuoka but it is clear of danger, given it’s played on Friday night - ahead of the forecast landing.

So what does all this mean?

Well, unlike an Irish gale or Scottish squall, there is no playing through a Super Typhoon and depending where you sit, varying levels of panic stations have been deployed.

Rugby World Cup rules state that if a pool game is cancelled on the day of the game, it is registered as a 0-0 draw and points are shared.

That’d bad news for Ireland, Japan or Scotland, who all still need more wins to get guaranteed qualification for the finals.

England and France are both qualified already but the latter couldn’t finish top if the points were shared.

If Wales lose to Fiji on Wednesday night, that means they’d need to play and win in their last game too, or else Australia could potentially sweep through and win the pool.

These are doomsday scenarios but that's all clickbait gold and the "what if" yarns have been filling up rugby news sections and websites for the past day or two.

World Rugby said they were monitoring the developing storm on Monday, armed with robust contingency plans.

Planning aside, the primary action of World Rugby right now would be robust finger crossing.

As anyone in Japan will tell you, while the word “typhoon” sounds scary, there are many each year. Indeed Typhoon Hagibis is the 19th of the typhoon season, and there’ll be more to come after it.

Typhoons, say the locals, can and do change their course, their speed and their potential landing zones extremely rapidly. 

Hagibis, for example, may hammer into Japan at the weekend with force, or it may sail right by. Or it may turn into some regulation rainy weather.

Weather forecasters say until 48 hours out, forecasts can be unreliable and the affected teams are sticking to that mantra, saying they won’t think about it until much later in the week.

World Cup organisers will be hoping Hagibis doesn’t hammer, but if it does, those dreaded cancellations and shared points are extremely long odds.

Though nothing officials has been said, it now appears likely Rugby World Cup organisers would simply move affected games to dry venues out of the storm's path.

That would be a huge disappointment to fans who’d bought tickets but with finals beginning a week later, for the sake of fairness, there is no scope to delay games. 

And if you reckon a dud 'six again' call is controversial, imagine the frenzied response to a country missing out of a playoffs berth because a game was cancelled due to weather. 

It’d make Hagibis look like a summer shower.