Scottish Rugby has threatened to sue World Rugby for its refusal to shift Scotland’s must-win Rugby World Cup game against Japan out of the path of a massive typhoon baring down on the country.
As Japan braces for the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis – expected to be the most destructive typhoon in 60 years – a war of words broke out after Murrayfield chief executive Mark Mr Dodson threatened legal action over the sport’s governing body.
Mr Dodson has urged the global governing body to see sense and push Sunday’s win-or-bust showdown with Japan out of Typhoon Hagibis’ path of destruction.
The threat of legal action sparked an angry response from World Rugby, who said they were “disappointed” with Dodson’s comments after insisting the Scots were happy to sign up to the rules which prohibit pool matches being rescheduled.
Scotland will miss the tournament finals if the match is cancelled.
Mr Dodson wants the game pushed back 24 hours, claiming World Rugby would be risking the “sporting integrity” of the competition if they stick to their decision that the game must be played on Sunday or not at all.
In a statement, the governing body said: “It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments at a time when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday’s matches to take place as scheduled. (But) it was the fair and correct decision for all teams to maintain the position outlined in the terms of participation.”
Earlier, Mr Dodson revealed he had sought expert legal opinion which says the tournament organisers do have the right under “force majeure” measures to reschedule pool matches despite World Cup rules clearly stating they may only go ahead on their originally planned date.
“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion – from a leading QC – that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation,” Mr Dodson told the BBC.
The 1400km-wide Hagibis has already forced the cancellation of England v France and New Zealand v Italy – ending the Azzurri’s faint hopes of reaching the last eight – on Saturday and World Rugby say it would not be fair to bend the rules for the Scots.
Meanwhile, organisers of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix announced that the entire Saturday track program, including qualifying, had been scrapped for safety reasons in the face of the approaching Super Typhoon Hagibis.
The Japanese government has warned residents to leave high-risk areas and stock up on food and water as a powerful typhoon forecast to bring up to 80 centimetres of rain and damaging winds bares down on the country.
Nearly 20,000 police and troops were put on standby, flights were grounded and subway systems were closed.
“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion – from a leading QC – that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation,” Scotland Rugby boss Mark Dodson told the BBC.
Australians who have travelled to Japan for the rugby are being forced to change their plans which is made more difficult by the closure of airports and trains services.
Meanwhile, the entire Saturday program at the Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled in a move that’s turned the event schedule on its head.
It wasn’t just the rugby and F1 that were inconvenienced, with flights and train services being halted.
In the town of Kiho southwest of Tokyo, shops were boarded up, boats were anchored and authorities checked coastal levees.
Most stores, restaurants and other businesses in Tokyo planned to close, and residents were buying batteries, bottled water, instant noodles and other food.
Meteorological Agency official Yasushi Kajihara said Typhoon Hagibis resembled a typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 with heavy rains and left half a million houses flooded. More than 1,200 people died in that storm.
“In order to protect your own life and your loved ones, please try to start evacuating early before it gets dark and the storm becomes powerful,” Mr Kajihara said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet held a disaster management meeting, vowing to do its utmost to protect people’s lives.
He said 17,000 police and military troops are ready if needed for rescue operations.
“The typhoon could cause power outages, damage to infrastructure and significantly affect people’s lives,” Mr Abe said.
Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara urged hospitals and other public facilities to check their backup power supplies.
Hagibis, which means speed in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with winds of 180 kilometres per hour gusting to 250kmkm/h, the weather agency said.
It was expected to weaken as it hugs the Pacific coast of Japan’s main island on Saturday, making landfall south of Tokyo and passing out to sea by Sunday afternoon.
The meteorological agency cautioned that the typhoon could trigger waves as high as 13 meters in coastal cities through Saturday.
Up to 80 centimetres of rain was forecast in the capital region. An evacuation advisory was issued early to 7,568 people on Oshima island in the typhoon’s projected path.
Shimoda city, west of Tokyo, also issued an advisory to all of its 21,402 residents.
All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded most domestic and international flights scheduled Saturday at the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Central Japan Railway said it will cancel all bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka.
At Narita International Airport, officials holding signs written in multiple languages practiced Friday how to escort passengers to relieve congestion caused by flight cancellations.
Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea will be closed Saturday, as will museums, movie theaters and other businesses.
The typhoon is spreading fear especially in Chiba, near Tokyo, which was hit by Typhoon Faxai last month and where homes still are damaged.
That typhoon knocked down about 2,000 power poles, at one point leaving more than 900,000 homes without power, triggering concerns about the country’s aging infrastructure system built decades ago.
Chiba city distributed sandbags to shield against flooding and urged residents to make sure they have enough food and water and that their phones are charged. Workers placed huge protective nets over debris from the earlier storm still piled in parts of the city to keep it from being blown away by the new typhoon.