Rugby World Cup

World Rugby’s predictable washout

The All Blacks v Italy and England v France tests at the World Cup are victims of World Rugby's determination to hold the tournament in a typhoon season to preserve the Six Nations tournament, says Jim Kayes.

A wonderful Japanese student has been living with us this year and my eldest daughter has been busy teaching her Kiwi slang.

Hard yakka. Choice. Yeah nah. Munted. Chur. Sweet as. She’ll be right. And lots more.

I’m tempted to add a wee saying to the mix too. “Couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.”

When it comes to World Rugby, and those who have organised the Rugby World Cup in her home land, it seems to sum them up.

This is typhoon season in Japan. Happens every year at roughly the same time and often with devastating consequences, with lives lost and property damaged.

Three people died during Typhoon Faxai last month and this latest typhoon, Hagibis, is forecast to be one of the worst on record.

It is bigger than usual, but still not unexpected. So why anyone would schedule their showpiece event at this time of year in Japan beggars belief.

A year ago, I talked on radio with Japan-based journalist Rich Freeman about this topic because a typhoon had just hit Japan.

He warned then that it could happen now too.

If he knew, what were World Rugby doing? Did they have their heads in the sand, too snugly in the trough or simply up their...? Well, you get the point.

They’ve cancelled two games because of Typhoon Hagibis and there could be more cancellations to come.

Of course safety has to be a concern and it is sensible to cancel games that are in the way of a typhoon.

That’s not the point. The point is this was foreseeable, predictable even, yet World Rugby carried on anyway because they didn’t want a World Cup at another time of the year to impact on other competitions (in other words, the Six Nations!).

Or perhaps they thought their collective hot air would blow the typhoons away.

To be fair, the result of England and France wasn’t going to change who qualified, but could have changed who they play in the quarterfinals. As it stands, England will play Australia, and France will tackle Wales.

England coach Eddie Jones isn’t worried by the cancellation.

"We're not concerned at all. We're excited, absolutely excited. Two weeks to prepare for a quarterfinal. There's someone smiling on us. The typhoon gods maybe."

The All Blacks game was also not vital in terms of where they finished in the pool, because not even the most ardent Italy fan expected them to win.

They have played the All Blacks 14 times and lost each test by an average of 59-9. They were thrashed 49-3 by South Africa last week.

Since joining the Six Nations in 2000, they have managed just 12 wins and been clean-swept nine times.

If Fiji were given that sort of exposure they would surely be among rugby’s top echelon, but instead we have Italy who wouldn’t win a bag of pasta in a one ticket raffle. New Zealand have topped Pool B and will play whoever finishes second in Pool A. That won’t be known until Scotland play Japan on Sunday, but that game is under threat too.

It would be a monumental shame if the game isn’t played and Scotland are knocked out of the World Cup without getting the chance to stake a final claim.

If that happens, or if it is played and Japan win, the All Blacks will play Ireland, and South Africa take on Japan, who beat them four years ago.

The pity here is that fans, most of whom have paid small fortunes to be in Japan and to get tickets to the games, are missing out (though they will, at least, be refunded their tickets).

And the disappointing thing for the All Blacks (and other teams) is that their careful plans to build toward the quarterfinals have hit a pothole, that could have easily been avoided if the tournament had been played later or earlier.

This is World Rugby, though, so we really shouldn’t expect too much.

This is the body that continues to cosset Italy while paying lip service to the Pacific Islands. It’s the organisation that thinks a World Cup is a good time to rigidly enforce its new tackle laws framework.

It’s the bunch of blokes - because it is still, largely, a privileged old boys' club - who thought players could change their habits with one blow of a referee’s whistle.

They won’t mind though. Not in the deepest parts of their wallets.

It’s only the punters who miss out, and a few teams scrapping to make it into the front row of the shop window.

Rugby's pinnacle event, that was more than four years in the planning, derailed because it’s being held in the typhoon season.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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