World Rugby has cleared Ireland of accusations levelled by a Sunday newspaper that the IRFU applied pressure on the World Cup organisers to stop the Japan v Scotland match being rearranged in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis.
The IRFU moved on Sunday to describe the claims made in the Sunday Times referring to it being ‘vehemently opposed’ to any rearrangement of the Scotland v Japan World Cup fixture as “completely false”.
It added that “the inference within the article that the IRFU made representations to World Rugby on the matter is totally without foundation” and called on the journalist who wrote the piece to immediately withdraw “this scurrilous and untrue allegation”.
Speaking at a World Cup Post Pool Media Briefing in Tokyo on Monday, Alan Gilpin, the tournament director and World Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer addressed the issue in his opening remarks about the decision to cancel rather than rearrange other fixtures including New Zealand v Italy and England v France on Saturday on safety grounds as the super typhoon hit Japan and swept through a huge swathe of the country, killing more than 70 people and causing widespread damage.
“While we had appropriate discussions with a number of unions, no decisions were based on pressure from any particular unions,” Gilpin said.
“And it’s also important to clarify that we did not have those discussions with Ireland.”
Scotland, meanwhile, could face punishment for their “comments and behaviours” in threatening legal action when their World Cup match against Japan was under threat of cancellation.
World Rugby has confirmed it will convene a hearing of its independent disputes committee, in light of Scotland Rugby Union (SRU) chief executive Mark Dodson’s suggestion there could be grounds for legal action against the governing body.
Dodson hit out at World Rugby’s plans to cancel Scotland’s final Pool A clash with Japan on Sunday if Typhoon Hagibis had left the Yokohama Stadium unsafe for action.
World Cup organisers managed to stage the match, with Japan defeating the Scots 28-21 and reaching the quarter-finals at their rivals’ expense but Scotland’s discomfort on the field could be replicated off it with the possibility that the SRU could face sanction for their conduct in the days leading up to that clash.
“We’ve referred to the independent disputes committee the comments and behaviours of the Scottish Rugby Union,” Gilpin said. “On that basis it’s probably inappropriate to comment any further.”
Rugby World Cup rules state that any pool-stage match deemed unplayable due to the weather cannot be staged on a different day. Scotland felt those regulations were open to challenge due to “force majeure” measures, with Dodson repeatedly demanding a “common sense approach”.
Gilpin insisted on Tuesday that all appropriate tournament rules had been followed during the typhoon.
“Our sympathies are with the families of those who lost loved ones and the millions affected by Typhoon Hagibis,” said Gilpin.
“We were very clear with everyone before the tournament about the detailed contingency plans in place but also tournament rules about how contingency plans could be implemented.
“Those contingency plans were in place, including back-up venues. But the rules do not allow for postponements to be affected in pool matches.
“What became clear was the incredible size of the typhoon, with it being 1,400km wide only three match venues were outside of the typhoon’s path.
“We were not able to implement contingency plans that would treat all matches and teams consistently and fairly.
“We would only vary those rules if we could treat all teams consistently and fairly. But we couldn’t.
“So that led to the difficult decision to cancel two matches on Saturday.
“We did have contingency venue plans for the other three matches on the Sunday, but they were always dependent on damaged caused by the typhoon. Pleasingly of course we played those three matches as scheduled.
“We were consistent with everything laid out before the tournament.”
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