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Could Typhoons disrupt the Rugby World Cup?

RUGBY By AFP | September 9th 2019 | 3 min read
One of the stadiums hosting the Rugby World Cup this year [Courtesy]

Namibia 0 New Zealand 0 at the Rugby World Cup!

An improbable scoreline but one that could happen if their pool match is cancelled due to a typhoon.

The disruption caused in Tokyo in the early hours of Monday by powerful typhoon Faxai has reignited questions about contingency planning for the Rugby World Cup, which starts in just 11 days.

Here are some of the key questions as one of the world's natural disaster hotspots prepares to host one of the world's biggest sporting events.

- What happens if a game is called off? -

The regulations vary depending on whether the match affected is during the pool stages or the knock-out phase of the competition.

According to section three of World Rugby's tournament rules for Japan 2019: "Where a pool match cannot be commenced on the day in which it is scheduled, it shall not be postponed to the following day, and shall be considered as cancelled."

"In such situations, the result shall be declared a draw and teams will be allocated two match points each and no score registered."

With the tournament being hailed as one of the closest ever, this could have a dramatic impact on the initial phase.

From the quarter-finals onwards, there is some wiggle room, however.

"Where a knock-out match cannot be commenced on the scheduled match day, it will be considered as postponed, and will be re-scheduled to be played within the two days following the scheduled match day, or such longer period as determined by RWCL (Rugby World Cup Ltd)," the regulations state.

- Could typhoons affect the World Cup? -

The tournament -- especially the early parts -- is being played during prime typhoon season.

Faxai, which battered Tokyo on Monday with torrential rain and hurricane-force winds, was the 15th tropical storm of the year.

It has already had some impact on team preparations, as the Wallabies were forced to delay their arrival in Japan. France managed to touch down in Tokyo just before the storm hit.

Typhoons are not the only worry. Japan is one of the most seismically active countries on Earth and tournament organisers are also bracing for the possibility of an earthquake disrupting the schedule.

- How are organisers preparing? -

According to tournament director Alan Gilpin, contingency planning has been a huge part of the pre-competition activity.

"Our view is that you can plan for it. You've just got to make sure you've worked through all those different permutations," Gilpin told AFP in an interview earlier this year.

"We've got to be ready for the 'what ifs'... We've got contingency venue plans if we lose a venue to an earthquake or any kind of issue, (or) if we lose a major transport hub -- because it's not just about venues."

- How are teams preparing? -

England coach Eddie Jones, who would be familiar with Japan's extreme weather as a former coach of the Brave Blossoms, has been quoted as saying there is "no doubt" typhoons will have an impact on the World Cup.

He said the team would train indoors on artificial turf if weather conditions prevented them from playing outside.

Aside from training, a major issue could be transporting the 20 teams and their fans around the 12 venues spread out around the vast Japanese islands.

Dozens of flights and shinkansen bullet trains were cancelled during Typhoon Faxai and large parts of the Tokyo train network were also shut down, causing chaos on the Monday morning commute.

- Should fans be worried? -

While there is a non-negligible risk of a typhoon or an earthquake striking at some point during the seven-week Rugby World Cup, fans should be comforted by the fact that Japan is extremely well set up and resilient to natural disasters.

Even with record rains and winds battering Tokyo, the world's most populous city, there was only one death, a handful of light injuries and fairly minor damage.

Buildings and transport networks are designed to withstand major earthquakes and tremors of a magnitude that would destroy many cities result in a jolt but limited damage.

Authorities have worked hard to upgrade early-warning systems and information channels in the event of a natural disaster to make sure they are available in English.

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