England’s Rugby World Cup match against France has become the first match in the tournament’s history to be cancelled, World Rugby have confirmed.
World Rugby has also confirmed that New Zealand’s match against Italy has been cancelled, with both matches ruled a scoreless draw.
The imminent threat of Typhoon Hagibis, forecast to be the worst tropical cyclone in Japan in the last 60 years, has led to Saturday’s match at the International Stadium Yokohama being cancelled.
The result of the cancellation means that England top Pool C with France confirmed as runners-up, meaning that Eddie Jones’s side will likely face Australia in the quarter-finals and the French take on Wales, providing Warren Gatland’s side top Pool D as expected.
The imminent threat of Hagibis to the Yokohama and Tokyo region has World Rugby on red alert, with the weekend’s World Cup fixtures as well as the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka at risk of being cancelled, and to add to the current weather fears there were two earthquakes in the Tokyo area on Wednesday, with a 4.5-magnitude tremor early in the morning followed by a smaller evening tremor.
Across the eight previous World Cups, not a single game has had to be cancelled before, but unless Hagibis weakens considerably on its approach to the main Japanese island of Honshu or changes direction, the final weekend of the World Cup pool stage will be heavily affected.
Before the tournament started, Typhoon Faxai left three people dead in what was the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 60 years, with nearly 1,000,000 households destroyed by the tropical cyclone.
According to satellite imagery, Hagibis is considerably larger than Faxai and of similar or higher intensity after going through “among the most explosive rapid intensifications of any tropical cyclone on record anywhere on Earth”, though the hope is that it’ll weaken the close it gets to making landfall.
England were delayed upon their arrival in Japan by Faxai, with the squad left stranded at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport for six hours due to the travel chaos caused by the 15th typhoon of the season.