Scots charged for cancellation comments at Rugby World Cup

October 15, 2019

TOKYO (AP) — The Scots are still in a Rugby World Cup contest, days after being knocked out of the tournament by Japan.

Rugby World Cup organizers issued misconduct charges against Scotland's rugby union on Tuesday for comments made about the potential cancellation of the last group match over the weekend, when the destructive Typhoon Hagibis left dozens of people dead on Japan's main island.

Three World Cup games were canceled and there was wide speculation that the Japan-Scotland game in Yokohama would be called off, too.

Scotland needed to beat Japan to have any hope of advancing to the knockout stages, and Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson had forecast potential legal action if the game was scrapped rather than postponed.

Dodson said organizers should have had contingency plans to move or delay the game by 24 hours in the case of such extreme weather, and criticized World Rugby for rigidly sticking to the regulation that dictated that a game be canceled if it can't be played on the scheduled day.

The game proceeded after organizers completed a safety assessment at the Yokohama venue early Sunday, and Japan won 28-21 to continue its unbeaten run and win the group.

World Rugby tournament director Alan Gilpin said Tuesday that "comments and behaviors" of Scottish Rugby had been referred to an independent disputes committee.

Rugby World Cup later confirmed the charges, saying it would make no further comment pending the outcome.

Under tournament rules, group matches cannot be postponed. In the case of canceled games, both teams are awarded two competition points and the score is registered as 0-0. There are contingencies for games in the knockout phase.

Organizers took the unprecedented move, two days ahead of time, of cancelling two games scheduled for Saturday — the Pool B game between defending champion New Zealand and Italy in Toyota, and the England-France Pool C decider in Yokohama.

Trains and flights were canceled on Saturday and authorities urged people to stay indoors for their own safety. Torrential rain caused flooding and landslides in parts of the country overnight, and organizers called off the Namibia-Canada game at Kamaishi Recovery Stadium in northeastern Japan six hours before kickoff on Sunday.

Gilpin said the cancellation rules were not new for this tournament, the first Rugby World Cup in Asia.

"No decisions were made based on pressure from unions," Gilpin said of the decision to go ahead with the Japan-Scotland game. "Putting any match on is complex and to put it on in these circumstances is remarkable.

"There are members of the venue staff who slept in the venue to make sure they could start assessing the impact. There were people working whose houses had been destroyed that day."

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper also rejected suggestions that organizers bowed to pressure from critics to ensure the game went ahead.

"Some of the (reported) comments were disappointing. Without dwelling on that, we were not influenced by conversations and comments," Gosper said. "We made the call based on what was in front of us. This was an exceptional typhoon thrown at this tournament and the tournament has handled it brilliantly."

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