Scots won’t be World Cup ‘collateral damage’ vows SRU chief

Scotland players celebrate their victory over Samoa, in the Rugby World Cup, at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, in Kobe, Japan. (Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2019

Scots won’t be World Cup ‘collateral damage’ vows SRU chief

  • World Cup organizers have already taken the unprecedented decision to axe Saturday’s matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy with Typhoon Hagibis poised to hit Japan
  • Scotland’s Pool A match against Japan in Yokohama on Sunday is also under threat from the extreme weather, with a decision on whether it goes ahead set to be taken on the morning of the game

TOKYO: Scotland’s rugby chief insisted he won’t allow his side to become “collateral damage” at the Rugby World Cup as he fights off moves to cancel Sunday’s decisive pool clash with Japan over an incoming typhoon.
World Cup organizers have already taken the unprecedented decision to axe Saturday’s matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy with Typhoon Hagibis poised to hit Japan’s east coast.
Scotland’s Pool A match against Japan in Yokohama on Sunday is also under threat from the extreme weather, with a decision on whether it goes ahead set to be taken on the morning of the game.
Assuming Ireland manage at least a losing bonus in their final pool match against Samoa on Saturday, the Scots will need a victory over Japan to have a chance of reaching the last eight.
But if their game is called off and, under tournament regulations, declared a 0-0 draw, the two points Scotland will then receive won’t stop them being eliminated.
“My view is that we’re not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste,” SRU chief executive Mark Dodson told BBC Radio Four’s Today program on Friday.
“I think there’s alternative (venues) around Japan.”
World Rugby has insisted the only two options are playing the Scotland-Japan match as scheduled, or cancelation.
But Scotland dispute this interpretation of the rulebook, arguing a ‘force majeure’ clause allows for weather-affected pool games to be rescheduled, as can happen in the knockout phase.
Dodson said that while the question of whether the match took place on Sunday was now a “purely meteorological issue,” and public safety was the priority, canceling the fixture would wreck the “sporting integrity” of the tournament.
“World Rugby seem to be determined to stick to its plan that the match is either played on Sunday or indeed it is canceled, and to have it canceled and have our ability to progress from this group put at peril, we believe is absolutely unacceptable,” added Dodson, who warned legal action remained a possibility.
“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion — from a leading QC (senior lawyer) — that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation.
“We don’t know that (it’s too late) — we have to challenge it. This is about the game and rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby.”
“The common-sense approach to this is to play the game 24 hours later in perfect safety where we can make sure that the pool stages are completed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend dropped captain Stuart McInally to the bench and installed experienced scrum-half Greig Laidlaw as skipper when he named his team on Friday.
Fraser Brown starts at hooker instead of McInally, yet to find his best form in Japan.
Brown, who started at flanker in Wednesday’s 61-0 hammering of Russia, is one of three Dark Blues players who will be kicking off for the second time in four days together with wings Tommy Seymour and Darcy Graham.
Scotland, who started this World Cup with a woeful 27-3 loss to Ireland, are up against a Japan side who’ve won all three of their group games so far.
“The opportunity to face the hosts in such a decisive pool match will be a unique occasion and should be a great spectacle,” said Townsend.
“Games of this magnitude don’t come around very often in a playing career so we will be giving it everything to make sure it is a memorable match,” he added.

Scotland (15-1)
Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury; Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Willem Nel, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn


Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

Updated 05 June 2020

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

  • Games pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak

TOKYO: Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organizers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organizers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
But given the global crisis, organizers ruled out a similar celebration.
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organizers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organizers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organizing committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organizers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards.”
Organizers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be canceled if the disease isn’t under control by next year.