Rugby

England's Mako Vunipola offers prayers for people affected by Typhoon Hagibis

Reuters

England prop Mako Vunipola said he is praying for those affected by Typhoon Hagibis — including members of his own family — as England continues its World Cup preparations in Miyazaki, around 870 km southwest of Tokyo.

At least 35 people died and 17 were missing after the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in decades hammered the Tokyo area on Saturday, causing widespread flooding and leaving almost half a million homes without power.

England was scheduled to play France in Yokohama on Saturday night but the game was canceled as the serious threat posed by the huge storm became apparent.

To avoid it the squad decamped for a “beef and beer” break at the holiday resort where it had its pre-tournament training camp and well away from the typhoon’s path.

From there, England will have a three-hour coach trip to Oita on Monday, where it will continue the build-up to its quarterfinal in a week’s time — likely to be against Australia.

After a full-on training session on Saturday, Vunipola said: “It’s worrying, but we’re lucky — we’re pretty sheltered from a lot of that. I didn’t realize how big or how bad the typhoon was going to be until we got told the news.

“Obviously you’re focused on rugby but you know it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

Vunipola’s father, Fe’ao, a former captain of Tonga, was in Tokyo for the France game, along with other members of his extended family.

“You worry for people’s safety in typhoons and you hope and pray that nothing serious does happen,” Vunipola said.

Vunipola is in the running for his first start of the tournament as he battles back to fitness from a serious hamstring injury sustained in May.

His brother, Billy, is also expected to be fit after twisting an ankle and having to come off at halftime in the win over Argentina.

“He’s in good spirits and confident he’ll be available for selection, which is good for him,” Mako said of the No. 8.

“He’s done all his bits with icing and he’s under good care with the physios.”

Winger Jack Nowell, who made his first appearance since May coming off the bench against Argentina, is the only other member of the squad to be a fitness doubt for the quarterfinal but it is expected he will be available for selection.

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