“Following extensive discussions with World Rugby, Kamaishi City and Iwate Prefecture, during which we considered every possibility to make this game happen, we had no option but to cancel the match to ensure the safety of the fans, team, volunteers, and all others involved,” organizing committee chief executive Akira Shimazu said. “It was both a difficult and emotional decision to make, however, I feel it’s the right decision and firmly believe both domestic and foreign fans will understand the decision was made to ensure safety.”
The U.S.-Tonga game at Hanazono Stadium in Osaka and the Wales-Uruguay game at Kumamoto were given the all clear to go ahead on Sunday. Wales has secured a spot in the quarterfinals, while Uruguay, the U.S. and Tonga are out of contention.
Conditions in Yokohama were being assessed for the crucial Japan-Scotland Pool A game on Sunday, the last of the 40 pool-stage matches. It is also a quarterfinal decider. Scotland needs a win over host Japan to have any chance of reaching the knockout stage, and has threatened to sue organizers if the game is canceled.
Two of Saturday’s three scheduled games were canceled well before the destructive typhoon made landfall.
The New Zealand vs. Italy at Toyota and England vs. France at Yokohama were the first games ever to be canceled at rugby’s showpiece event.
Like those two games, the Canada-Namibia result was logged as 0-0 and each team was given two competition points each. Canada and Namibia were both winless, so the cancellation had no impact on the quarterfinals.
Typhoon Hagibis was one of the most powerful storms to hit Japan in decades and World Rugby said safety considerations are at the heart of the decision to cancel the first of Sunday’s games.
“Kamaishi is situated in a highly mountainous area, including mountains directly behind the main stand of the stadium,” World Rugby said. “There have been landslides and flooding in the vicinity of the stadium and along access roads to the venue following torrential rain throughout the night.”
The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in northeastern Japan was built on the site where two schools sat before they were washed away on March 11, 2011, when the town was devastated by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that killed just over 1,000 local people. Uruguay had an upset win over Fiji at the stadium earlier in the tournament, when the tragedy of nine years ago was memorialized by the presence of Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, among the sold-out crowd of 14,000.
“Our hearts go out to the teams and also their fans, but also the people of Kamaishi, who have been incredible during what has been a special journey in recent years,” World Rugby tournament director Alan Gilpin said. “Nobody will be more disappointed than them, but also nobody would have better empathy with the decision.”
The Japan Meteorological Agency had forecast the typhoon to be the worst to hit Japan in six decades. It brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan all day ahead of its landfall early Saturday evening, and continued to batter parts of the main island with heavy winds and torrents of rain overnight.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7 shook the areas drenched by the rainfall, shortly before the typhoon made landfall in Shizuoka prefecture.
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