Monday 21 October 2019

Irate Scots threaten World Rugby with legal action

This Oct. 8, 2019, satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Typhoon Hagibis over Guam and Northern Mariana Islands
This Oct. 8, 2019, satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Typhoon Hagibis over Guam and Northern Mariana Islands

Richard Bath

A furious row has broken out in Japan where Scottish rugby chiefs have notified World Rugby of their intention to take legal action to ensure that the governing body of rugby's World Cup does "whatever it takes" to ensure that Scotland's final pool game against Japan is played.

The Scots' legal advice is that under tournament rules there is flexibility to adjust the tournament schedule in cases of force majeure, and the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis qualifies as such.

At a series of lengthy and bad-tempered meetings, which lasted late into yesterday evening, Scottish Rugby's chief executive Mark Dodson - who was described by one insider as being "in a state of apoplexy" - and chief operating officer Dominic McKay were fighting to ensure that the game goes ahead.

The Scots' preferrence is to move the game by 24 hours from its current 7.45pm time on Sunday in Yokohama, to Monday at the same time.

They stress that by then Typhoon Hagibis is expected to have passed. If, however, their game is cancelled and the result declared a draw, the Scots will almost certainly be eliminated.

That unconscionable outcome moved a step nearer yesterday when Italy's match against New Zealand tomorrow, in which the Azzurri needed a bonus-point win to advance to the quarter-finals, was summarily cancelled without any prior warning.

The Italian coach Conor O'Shea and captain Sergio Parisse were in Tokyo waiting to announce their team to play the All Blacks at 1pm when they received an email at 12.59pm of the draft press release announcing that the game had been cancelled.

A senior source in the Scotland squad who spoke to the Italians said that they team management were "utterly heartbroken" by the decision.

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In a development that seems sure to cloud the rest of the tournament and have ramifications into the future, insiders claim the match between the All Blacks and Italy could have been postponed until Monday, but the All Blacks were unwilling to consider a turnaround of just five days ahead of their quarter-final, which is due to be played on Saturday, October 19.

With England versus France also being postponed, angering England coach Eddie Jones and counterpart Jacques Brunel, while also affecting the possible outcome in Pool C, tournament director Alan Gilpin insisted a precedent has been set and that a "one size fits all" approach is the only fair way to proceed.

Describing the situation as "shambolic" and "embarrassing", a spokesman for Scottish Rugby said World Rugby's handling of the affair has been disgracefully poor, and unless it comes to its sense and adheres to its own tournament regulations, the union will have no choice but to take immediate legal action.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to get this game (between Scotland and Japan) on," said the spokesman.

"For the integrity of the sport and this tournament, we've got to find a way to deliver on our undertaking to stage this game.

"World Rugby said they had contingency plans in place to address any problems or challenges that might occur, and we took them at their word.

"We now expect them to deploy those contingency plans and ensure this match goes ahead."

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