Rugby World Cup fans on Friday expressed mixed feelings as they contemplated a weekend of canceled games due to Typhoon Hagibis, with ticket-holders praying that Japan’s crucial match against Scotland on Sunday still goes ahead.
Tournament organizers on Thursday called off two games originally scheduled for Saturday — England against France in Yokohama and New Zealand against Italy in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture — citing safety concerns from what is expected to be of one of the biggest typhoons to hit Japan in decades.
Four matches are scheduled to be played on Sunday, including Japan’s do-or-die Pool A showdown with Scotland in Yokohama — the winner of which will likely go through to the quarterfinals at the expense of the loser. If the game is canceled, Japan will advance and Scotland will be eliminated.
A decision on whether the game goes ahead will be made at least six hours before the 7:45 p.m. kickoff, and fans with tickets were holding out hope Friday that the green light would be given.
“I still remain hopeful that it will go ahead, and I think there will be a lot of pressure for it to go ahead,” said Scotland fan Martin Gill, who has tickets for both the England-France and Scotland-Japan games.
“They certainly could move Japan-Scotland to Monday. I don’t think moving it to Monday is too harsh. I don’t think that’s too much of a big deal. I think the logistics of getting around Japan have been really quite simple, and I think people would be able to move and get on with it. This is about the Rugby World Cup, which happens every four years. I think a bigger effort has to be made to play these games.”
Gill, who lives in Edinburgh, has been in Japan since the tournament began on Sept. 20, and has seen five games so far. He is scheduled to fly home to Scotland on Monday afternoon, although he intends to stay until Tuesday if the game is played 24 hours later.
Tournament organizers indicated Thursday that games will not be moved to different days or venues, citing the need for “consistency.”
That will come as little consolation for fans like England supporter Hector Bagley, who flew to Japan on Thursday morning with a ticket to watch the England-France game. He found out that it had been canceled two hours before he left London.
“I’m a bit gutted,” said Bagley, who intends to stay in Japan for two-and-a-half weeks, but does not have a ticket for any other game. “But in terms of player safety and fan safety, it’s the right decision. I just wish that they had made better plans what to do if this happened, because we are in the typhoon season.
“It’s one of those things. Humans can’t control typhoons, and I still get to see a country I’ve not been to before. There are silver linings amid this massive, massive formation of clouds. I’m obviously annoyed with it being the first time I had seen England play rugby, and it would have been a very special occasion. But on the flip side is player and fan safety. The people in control of the World Cup had to make a tough decision, and they did it with the information they had.”
Bagley said that canceling his flight would have been too expensive, and instead he bought himself an onward ticket to Fukuoka so that he could avoid spending his holiday holed up in a Tokyo hotel, sheltering from the typhoon.
“I’m still going to have a good time,” he said. “Obviously, I’m gutted I can’t watch England play, but there’s no reason why it should ruin my trip. I don’t know when I’ll next come to Japan. It’s not a good start to the trip but Japan has a lot to offer.”
Fellow England fan Alexis Saffin has been in Japan since Oct. 4, and had tickets for England’s game against Argentina in Tokyo on Oct. 5 as well as the canceled match against France.
She plans to travel instead this weekend to Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, which has canceled Saturday’s qualifying session and moved it to Sunday morning.
“It was a crunch match and a table-topper decider so I’m gutted, but at the end of the day you’ve got to put the safety of everyone first,” she said. “At least I got to see a game, but I’m naturally disappointed about this one, of course I am. You come all this way and it’s quite a lot of money to come out. I feel worse for the people that are only coming out for this game.
“I’m just so glad I got to one of the games. For the Argentina game, we were right in the middle of all the Argentina fans. It was a wonderful atmosphere, a real party atmosphere. It was fabulous. I can say I’ve been to the Rugby World Cup and I’ve seen a game.”