Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Rugby World Cup should tweak their own rules to save integrity of a fine competition

Italy have paid a huge price after their match was called off and it would be unfair if Scotland get eliminated the same way

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Getty
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Getty

Typhoons are a part of life in Japan in autumn. If Typhoon Hagibis does reach the level that is forecast when it makes landfall in the Tokyo area at the weekend, the destruction could be substantial.

Clearly, there are far more important things to worry about at a time like this than a few games of sport.

But why are the Rugby World Cup organisers sticking so rigidly to the idea that potentially seminal matches should not be played?

Tournament rules, as everyone was told ahead of time when it became clear weather might have an effect, say cancelled pool matches will result in a scoreless draw, and two shared points.

No reserve days. No replacement venues. Just deal with it.

But what will hinder the integrity of the tournament more: tweaking some rules to ensure a huge match does go ahead, albeit on delay? Or sending a team straight home because of the weather?

Saying that all the sides knew the rules before the tournament started, so be done with it, is spiritless.

This has always been the tournament of mitigating factors. Rugby’s laws are subject to interpretation – and that should include tournament playing conditions.

There must be some wiggle room here. Logistically impossible? Surely not.

There are six days between the last pool match, between Scotland and Japan, and the first quarter-final in Oita next Saturday.

Sides have had four-day turnarounds as a matter of course during the pool stage. How can it be that difficult?

Sergio Parisse has been deprived a swansong to his fine career by the cancellation of Italy’s game against New Zealand.

His teammate, Leonardo Ghiraldini, was reportedly moved to tears when he heard the news that he, too, was set to be denied one last game for his country.

And, however unlikely it was that Italy would beat the All Blacks with the requisite try-haul to make it through themselves, this was still a live fixture.

“If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled,” Parisse said.

Scotland, too, are fuming about the prospect of being dumped out by the extreme weather.

“Scottish Rugby fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarter-finals on the pitch, and will be flexible to accommodate this,” they said in a statement.

“We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby at all levels to work to ensure our fixture against Japan on Sunday can be played as planned. Public safety is the clear priority.”

Fair to assume that Japan would want to play that fixture, too.

In the view of many, theirs has been the finest of all Rugby World Cups. Not least because of the colour their own team has brought to their matches.

They would be making history by reaching the knockout stage. Japan have played at all eight previous World Cups. But this would be the first time they would make it out of the group.

If they did so via the weather rule, their achievement would always have an asterisk next to it.

The win over Ireland that brought them to this point was one of rugby’s greatest occasions. The Scotland match could be similar, given the chance.

Updated: October 10, 2019 03:18 PM

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