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Scotland consider legal action to force Japan go-ahead

If must-win clash is cancelled on Sunday, Scotland will be dumped out of the World Cup.

Scotland must beat Japan to stay in the tournament.
Scotland must beat Japan to stay in the tournament. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Scottish Rugby are looking at "legal options" to ensure Sunday's vital World Cup clash with Japan goes ahead.

World Rugby has been forced to call off two games on Saturday as Super Typhoon Hagibis prepares to wreak havoc across Japan's eastern coast.

A decision on whether the Scots' win-or-bust final Pool A game with the hosts goes ahead will be made on the morning of the game but Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that the showdown should either be moved to an alternative venue or delayed until after the storm passes.

World Rugby has already said it will not budge on tournament rules which state pool matches can only be played on their scheduled dates.

But Murrayfield bosses are understood to believe clauses relating to "force majeure" measures in the competition guidelines could allow room for manoeuvre.

Dodson said: "My view is that we're not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste.

"I think there's alternative (venues) around Japan. The point to me, we are talking about now is not whether the game will take place on Sunday, that will be a purely meteorological issue.

"The issue will be if it can't take place then we're really, really pressing the point that we need to have to get this game delayed 24 hours later."

Dodson confirmed the SRU are exploring legal options to ensure the game goes ahead.

He said: "The first is and most important is that we look after the safety of the general public. The second thing is for World Rugby to just simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament.

"We have been preparing for this tournament now for four years, the guys have had over 100 days in camp, we've played games already and the fourth game in this particular case is pivotal.

https://stv.tv/sport/rugby/1441470-scotland-will-play-in-empty-stadium-to-save-their-world-cup/ | default

"We've had consistent dialogue since the last three or four days around this with senior people at World Rugby, but World Rugby seem to be determined to stick to its plan that the match is either played on Sunday or indeed it is cancelled, and to have it cancelled and have our ability to progress from this group put at peril, we believe is absolutely unacceptable.

"World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We've had legal opinion - from a leading QC - that challenges World Rugby's interpretation.

"We don't know that (it's too late) - we have to challenge it. But we should be talking about this from a rugby perspective, this is about the game and the rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby.

"The common sense approach to this is to play the game 24 hours later on perfect safety where we can make sure that the pool stages are completed, and the sporting integrity of the tournament remains intact."

World Rugby responed with a statement stressing that safety was their primary concern.

A spokesperson said: "It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments at a time when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday's matches to take place as scheduled, and when there is a real and significant threat to public safety owing to what is predicted to be one of the largest and most destructive typhoons to hit Japan since 1958." 

The statement added: "The core principle that could enable us to explore a departure from the terms of participation, is a fair and consistent application of the rescheduling for all teams in a safe environment for teams, fans and essential match services.

"The sheer predicted scale and impact of the typhoon, and the complexity of team movements for eight matches, meant that an even-handed application was just not possible without putting safety at risk. Therefore, it was the fair and correct decision for all teams to maintain the position outlined in the terms of participation."

The coaches of England and New Zealand showed little sympathy for Scotland's position.

"We just knew that there was the possibility of a game like this during the tournament so we just wanted to put ourselves in the best position we could," said England head coach Eddie Jones.

"It's not something you can control. This is the situation. I think it's a wonderful World Cup. You can't help typhoons, we would all like to think we've got the power above and beyond what's on the world at the moment, but we don't and these things happen and you just ride with it."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen echoed Jones' comments in saying that Scotland's predicament was down to losing their opening game against Ireland.

"If you want to be really ruthless, then it's all about making sure you win the games on the way through because everyone knew this could be a possibility," he said. "That's pretty hard-nosed, though, because I know if we were in their situation, we'd be disappointed not to have the opportunity to get there."

Italy's World Cup is already over after their match against New Zealnand was cancelled even though they still had a mathematical chance of reaching the quarter-finals. Their head coach Conor O'Shea beleieves it would be unfair is Scotland's game was rescheduled.

"Yes, there is anger," O'Shea said. "Sport is sport for a reason. It is unpredictable. We didn't get the opportunity to take on the All Blacks, the Brazil of rugby, for a chance to go through ourselves.

"If there should be games cancelled on Sunday and re-arranged, that's not right. We must have consistency in that regard.

"We all knew the risk was there. People will say, 'Oh it's all about the integrity of the tournament that Japan against Scotland has to be played'. Well, what about our game? We were still in there with a sporting chance. That cannot be denied. England, France, New Zealand - it's OK for them to be considered as certain to go through. Why is it OK for them and not us?"

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