Irish sympathy for Scotland goes only so far at World Cup

October 11, 2019

FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — Ireland's sympathy for Scotland's predicament at the Rugby World Cup only stretches so far.

Scotland could yet get knocked out of the group stage without playing its last game, if the typhoon approaching Japan forces its Pool A encounter against host Japan on Sunday to be called off.

Ireland's match against Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday is going ahead and, for now, so is Scotland's match with Japan at Yokohama.

Japan leads the group with 14 points, three clear of Ireland and four ahead of Scotland. There's four points for a win, and bonus points available for scoring four-or-more tries or losing by a margin of seven or fewer points.

If both Pool A games were to be called off, all four teams would get two points and credited with a 0-0 scoreline — and that would allow the Japanese and Irish into the quarterfinals. Ireland beat Scotland on the opening weekend but lost to Japan, which is 3-0 in the pool stage. Scotland rebounded from the loss to Ireland to win its next two games.

The anticipated impact of Typhoon Hagibis has already forced the cancellation of two matches scheduled for Saturday — the Pool C decider between England and France at Yokohama, near Tokyo, and the Pool B game between New Zealand and Italy in Toyota.

"You do sympathize. We all knew there was going to be a risk and a lot of the managements have spoken about the 'what ifs?' around the World Cup," Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek said Friday. "Of course you'd be disappointed, and all the rest of it. But that's out of our hands."

Feek, who played test rugby for New Zealand, said it has been important for Ireland's players not to get too distracted by the growing typhoon talk — or about what might happen to the Scots.

"From our point of view, as soon as we knew we had a game on, no matter what happens on Sunday we need to win our game," he said. "We've got a good group of guys in keeping our focus on a good Samoan team."

The 44-year-old Feek has previously lived in Japan, so he knows about weather threats.

"You can't control these things," he said. "Players and other teams have been affected, and fortunately our (game) is going ahead. No matter what decision is made, it wouldn't have been easy calling a game of rugby off ... let alone at the World Cup."

Not everyone has been so understanding about the decision to cancel games.

Italy's veteran captain Sergio Parisse blasted tournament organizers as "ridiculous" for not putting into place what he called a 'Plan B' to ensure games got re-arranged. He believed Italy was disrespected, and went as far as saying the match would not have been cancelled if the defending champion All Blacks needed the points to reach the quarterfinals.

Ireland's players sympathized on a personal level with Parisse, but kept in mind wider safety issues.

"I feel sorry for players like Parisse, potentially playing in their last World Cup game and they don't get to do it against New Zealand," Ireland winger Keith Earls said. "You can't not feel sorry (for him). But I'm not going to get into the politics of the other stuff."

Backrower CJ Stander added: "It's tough ... but there's safety and what needs to be done. If I would have been in that situation, personally it would have been tough as well. We're lucky enough our game is going ahead."

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