Scotland have urged World Cup bosses to see sense and push their win-or-bust showdown with Japan out of Typhoon Hagibis’ path of destruction.
Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson made his call as he refused to rule out taking legal action to make sure the game goes ahead.
The “explosive” super storm could yet force the cancellation of the Dark Blues’ decisive Pool A clash with the hosts on Sunday – knocking Gregor Townsend’s team out of the tournament.
Dodson wants the game pushed back 24 hours, claiming World Rugby would be risking the “sporting integrity” of the competition if they stick to their decision that the game must be played on Sunday or not at all.
The Murrayfield boss says he has expert legal opinion which says the tournament organisers do have the right under ‘force majeure’ measures to reschedule despite World Cup rules clearly stating pool matches may only go ahead on their original date.
LISTEN | Scottish Rugby CEO Mark Dodson spoke to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme ahead of Scotland's Rugby World Cup Pool decider v Japan. pic.twitter.com/IaDp2QkWUe— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 11, 2019
The 1,400km-wide Hagibis – which has been billed as Japan’s biggest storm for more than 50 years – is due to strike the Tokyo-Yokohama region on Saturday with wind speeds in excess of 160mph.
It has already forced the cancellation of England’s clash against France as well as New Zealand versus Italy on Saturday.
Sunday’s match with the Brave Blossoms – which the Scots have to win to reach the quarter-finals – could be next if World Rugby decide playing the final match in Pool A at Yokohama’s International Stadium poses a risk to public safety.
The governing body say that having denied the Azzurri the right to delay their All Blacks clash, ending their faint hopes of reaching the last eight, they cannot make that accommodation for Scotland.
Dodson, though, says common sense should prevail and has provided legal advice from a top London QC to back his case.
Speaking at a press conference staged at the Scotland team hotel in Yokohama, he said: “As it stands World Rugby are still maintaining the position that if the game can’t take place on Sunday, there will be a cancellation.
“We engaged with World Rugby as soon as we knew this would be a possibility on Wednesday night. We took legal advice that challenged the view, and then we got a QC from a leading sports practice in London, Nick DeMarco, and he backed the fact there is flexibility in the schedule.
“The last thing we want to do is get tied up in legal matters. There is now a legal opinion that supports our view there is flexibility on the scheduling.
“What we really need to be talking about is a common-sense approach for what has been and promises to be a fantastic tournament.
“We don’t want to criticise World Rugby, they’re running a first-class tournament, and I’m convinced they’ll do everything they can to get this game played on Sunday, and the weather at the moment looks like it’s slightly improving.
“But there’s something that just doesn’t feel right about not fulfilling the final game and Scotland, or anyone else in fact, exiting the competition.
“I really feel sorry for our Italian friends who are now finding themselves on the way home because they didn’t have time to recalibrate and decide what they had to do next.
“What we’re asking for is a common-sense approach that allows this game to be played in perfect safety 24 hours after the storm clears.”
Asked if further legal action could be a possible step if the game is scrapped, Dodson replied: “I think our view is that we have to reflect on that matter at that time.
“This is a glorious, world-class sporting occasion. We don’t want to be the people that taint that. But we also don’t want to be the collateral damage of this.
“And that’s why we took the legal route. It was just to say we’ve had a different opinion, two different opinions, one from the QC, that challenges that rigidity over scheduling.”
Hagibis is the 19th cyclone to hit Japan this year but is considerably larger than any of the previous storms to hit land.
Dodson reckons the country’s ability to mount speedy clean-up operations justifies World Rugby bending their rules on scheduling.
He said: “Right from the get-go on Wednesday night we said to World Rugby we will play any place, anywhere. We will play behind closed doors, we’ll play in full stadiums.
“Our principle concern is for the safety of the general public. This country has a phenomenal track record of getting things back running once they’ve had major disasters – they are used to them and are probably the best in the world at doing that.
“We’re just saying, give them that little bit of time where the sporting integrity of this tournament is not compromised.
“We don’t want to get in some sort of legal arm wrestle with World Rugby but we do believe that we are being timed out in this competition – and being timed out is not a comfortable place to be.”