RWC Contingency Plan

RWC Contingency Plan

It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that World Rugby has been under a bit of scrutiny over the last few days. Now, nobody is blaming them for Typhoon Hagibis itself - even the legend that is Bill Beaumont (World Rugby Chairman) couldn’t have prevented it from running its course. But there perhaps should have been an alternative plan for the Rugby World Cup: cancelling matches doesn’t seem like the right decision for the sport, whichever angle you look at it from.

Japan didn’t seem like an obvious choice to be the host country to many outsiders, and it’s not exactly a secret that the nation is regularly hit by typhoons and other natural disasters. That’s not a suggestion that the tournament should never have been held there in the first place; it’s been a great choice in terms of growing the sport and showing support for Tier 2 nations. In any case, I don’t believe in avoiding hosting the tournament (or any event) in a particular country just in case there’s a natural disaster. After all, I survived an earthquake in Christchurch and flooding in Bangkok; disaster seemed to follow me around for a little while and it didn’t stop me travelling. 

Three rugby matches were cancelled this weekend and a further match was in jeopardy right up until the eleventh hour. The cancelled matches didn’t affect the outcome of the pools in terms of who went through, but the final standings were decided by 0-0 draws which wasn’t the climax the tournament organisers could have been hoping for. In the end, Scotland probably would have preferred the 0-0 draw to at least say their exit at the pool stages was out of their hands. Instead, Japan simply outplayed them.

Safety has to come first. Nobody is disputing that. There was a clear danger to life, emphasised by the latest reports of at least 60 confirmed dead as a result. Putting fans, players, support staff etc in the middle of the danger would have been an absolutely ridiculous and careless act of stupidity. But Typhoon Hagibis was predicted days before any of the matches were due to take place. Alternative arrangements could have been made in order to ensure all matches went ahead. Tournament rules state that pool matches cannot be rescheduled - I think it’s time to rethink the rules. Aside from the fact that fans paid a fortune for their travel, accommodation, and tickets, they were deprived of watching the sport that they love. Many may only have been in the country for a short while and may only have got tickets to that one match. I’m sure they had a lovely holiday (when they weren’t in lockdown in their hotel rooms), but that’s hardly the reason they travelled and not at all the point.

Gone are the days when there were two clear qualifiers from each pool. Rugby has come on enough for there to be a genuine competition across the majority, if not quite all, of the matches. There is too much at stake in this modern era of the game to allow outcomes to be decided on 0-0 draws based on cancelled matches. 

Sergio Parisse was understandably a little irate at Italy’s match with New Zealand being cancelled. Some reports suggest that the choice was offered to New Zealand about whether they wanted to play or not - having already qualified it was probably a no-brainer for the Kiwis, if it’s true. Italy could, by way of a minor miracle, have qualified for the quarter-finals. History would suggest that was unlikely given their opponents, but there is always a chance for history to be rewritten. Parisse, the world’s second most-capped player, talks about the disrespect that Italy were shown by having the match cancelled, presumably because people thought they would have lost anyway. But he wanted the chance to play one of the best teams in the world, on the world’s biggest stage. He can’t help but wonder if it would have been different had New Zealand needed the points to qualify.

That’s a question that others might well be wondering too. Although it might be left unanswered, one thing is for certain: World Rugby will have to explain their so-called contingency plan and why they thought it was an acceptable outcome for the rugby world’s biggest tournament.

One final comment to make is that all of this is insignificant compared to the destruction and devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis on those affected and our thoughts are with all those in Japan as they attempt to rebuild themselves.

Ruck Be A Lady

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