Following this morning’s announcement from World Rugby that two pool stage matches scheduled for this weekend, we take a look at what the confirmed cancellations (and those still to be confirmed) mean for each group.
In the event of a pool stage fixture being cancelled, the match is recorded as a scoreless draw, with both teams receiving two points. New Zealand’s Pool B game with Italy in the city of Toyota, and the Pool C showdown between France and England, have both been cancelled, while a decision is expected on Sunday morning for the crucial Pool A clash between Japan and Scotland.
Typhoon Hagibis is expected to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season, but is now not expected to affect Ireland’s match against Samoa in Fukuoka after fears earlier in the week that that game could also be cancelled.
Fans will be refunded for their tickets, but what does it mean for each pool?
Inarguably, Pool A looks set to be most affected by any cancellations. A bonus-point victory over Samoa will ensure Ireland’s progression to the last eight regardless of the outcome of Japan’s match with Scotland, but whether Joe Schmidt’s side will face South Africa or New Zealand still depends on Sunday’s game.
Gregor Townsend’s Scotland can join Ireland in the quarter-finals with victory over Japan, paving the way for Ireland to top the group, while a win for the hosts would consign Ireland to second spot.
A loss against Samoa could still see Ireland through if Scotland lose to Japan, although losing bonus points in this weekend’s games would be a factor with Ireland sitting just one point ahead of Scotland as it stands. In the unlikely event that Scotland pick up two losing bonus points and Ireland lose to Samoa without a bonus point then Ireland would be eliminated.
To complicate things further, if Ireland beat Samoa without a bonus point (thus finishing on 15 points), both Japan and Scotland can match that tally - if Scotland claim a bonus-point win and Japan secure a losing bonus point.
In this unlikely event, Scotland would top the group on points difference, while Japan would progress at Ireland’s expense on head-to-head. If Japan were to claim two losing bonus points (by scoring four tries and finishing within seven points of Scotland) then Japan would top the group with 16 points, and Ireland would progress on head-to-head over Scotland.
The above illustrates just how crucial the tie between Japan and Scotland would be in deciding who progresses from Pool A. However, if the game is cancelled, then the only way Scotland could progress is if Ireland lose to Samoa without picking up a bonus point. In short, an Ireland win on Saturday and the cancellation of Scotland’s game with Japan would see Scotland eliminated without taking to the field.
“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.— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 10, 2019
The confirmed cancellation of Italy’s game with New Zealand also denies Conor O’Shea’s side the chance to progress, regardless of how slim those chances were. A bonus-point victory over New Zealand, while denying the All Blacks a losing bonus point, could have seen Italy progress to the last eight at the expense of Steve Hansen’s side.
Unlikely as it may have been, the cancellation of the game between the sides is a sour end to Italy’s World Cup campaign.
The other game to be cancelled was a relatively easier decision, with France and England both already ensured progression from Pool C. A French victory could have seen them top the group at England’s expense, but with the Pool C winners likely to face Australia and the runners-up set to face Wales, there is no clear advantage to winning Pool C.
The other main repercussion - as mentioned by Donal Lenihan in today’s Daily Donal vlog - is that New Zealand, England and France all now have an extra week to prepare for their quarter-final games, and an extra weekend of recovery.
This gives those sides an advantage over their likely opponents at the quarter-final stage, with Australia, Wales, Ireland, and we can only assume Japan and Scotland all to play over the coming days.
Could the match cancellations become even more significant beyond the pool stages?
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