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Scotland on the offensive over Typhoon cancellations

A decision on the game in Yokohama will be made on Sunday when officials are able to assess the level of damage from Typhoon Hagibis, which has already forced the cancellation of two games due to be played on Saturday.

Scotland's scrum-half George Horne runs to score a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Scotland and Russia at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on 9 October 2019. Picture: AFP

TOKYO - Scottish Rugby Union chief Mark Dodson said he is ready to launch a legal challenge to prevent World Cup organisers cancelling his country’s game against Japan on Sunday - a measure that would almost certainly eliminate the Scots.

A decision on the game in Yokohama will be made on Sunday when officials are able to assess the level of damage from Typhoon Hagibis, which has already forced the cancellation of two games due to be played on Saturday.

One of those - New Zealand v Italy - eliminated the Italians and World Rugby are adamant that the rules, which say cancelled pool games cannot be rescheduled, must be applied identically across the board.

Should the Yokohama match be cancelled, both Scotland and Japan would receive two points each, meaning Japan and Ireland would finish in the top two in Pool A and reach the quarter-finals, providing the Irish beat the already-eliminated Samoa in their final game.

World Rugby have said they are looking at alternatives - expected to be playing at a different venue or possibly behind closed doors - but Dodson says that there is also a “force majeure” clause that should enable the game to be played on a delayed date.

“My view is that we’re not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste,” he told BBC Radio on Friday.

“I think there are alternative (venues) around Japan. If it can’t take place on Sunday then we’re really, really pressing the point that we need to have to get this game delayed 24 hours.”

Dodson said that he had made little progress despite constant dialogue with tournament organisers, describing the concept of a further cancellation as “absolutely unacceptable”.

He added that the SRU had taken legal opinion that “unravels the World Rugby case”. Asked if it was too late to mount a legal challenge, he said: “We don’t know that – we have to challenge it. 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 and the sporting integrity of the tournament remains intact.”

Many Scots fear that there is little chance of a change, believing that World Rugby are favouring the home nation as they desperately want a tier two team, and particularly the host nation, in the knockout phase.

CROOKED FEED

They are also still stinging from the 2015 tournament when they were denied a place in the semi-finals by an incorrect last-minute penalty that handed Australia victory at Twickenham.

Last week too there was general incredulity when Samoa were penalised for a crooked scrum feed in the last minute of the match against Japan - the only time a referee has punished the offence in the whole tournament.

Japan were allowed to regain possession and went on to score the fourth try they needed for a bonus point that could prove decisive - at Scotland’s expense - if Sunday’s game goes ahead.

And it is not just the Scots who raised an eyebrow at the Pool A schedule, which gives Japan a week between each of their matches while everyone else in the tournament has at least one short turnaround.

Meanwhile, fans who bought tickets for the cancelled matches through official channels have already received emails saying refunds will be paid automatically to their account.

Tickets bought from “unauthorised secondary sources” will not be refunded.

In addition to matches being called off, the typhoon’s impact on transportation in Japan has also left fans frustrated.

Some Australian supporters have had to miss their team’s game against Georgia in Shizuoka on Friday because planned train cancellations meant they would not have been able to get back to Tokyo for their flights home.

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