Scotland could face punishment over comments ahead of Japan match

Rugby World Cup organisers are investigating comments made amid typhoon-related doubts about the match proceeding.

By Press Association Published: 15 October 2019 - 6.34am

Scotland could face punishment for their “comments and behaviours” after hinting at legal action when their World Cup match against Japan was under threat of cancellation.

World Rugby has confirmed it will convene a hearing of its independent disputes committee, in light of Scotland Rugby Union (SRU) chief executive Mark Dodson’s comments last week.

Dodson hit out at World Rugby’s plans to cancel Scotland’s final Pool A clash with Japan on Sunday if Typhoon Hagibis had left the Yokohama Stadium unsafe for action.

Rugby Union – Mark Dodson Appointed Chief Executive of Scottish Rugby – Murrayfield
Scotland Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson’s comments ahead of the Japan match are being looked into (Lynne Cameron/PA)

World Cup organisers managed to stage the match, with Japan defeating the Scots 28-21 and reaching the quarter-finals at their foes’ expense.

But now Scotland could face sanction for their conduct in the days leading up to that clash.

“We’ve referred to the independent disputes committee the comments and behaviours of the Scottish Rugby Union,” said World Rugby chief operating officer Alan Gilpin.

“On that basis it’s probably inappropriate to comment any further.”

Alan Gilpin
World Rugby chief operating officer Alan Gilpin says the SRU’s “comments and behaviours” have been referred to the independent disputes committee (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Dodson refused to rule out taking legal action during an extraordinary snap press conference on Friday should the game not go ahead.

Asked if further legal action could be a possible step if the game was scrapped, Dodson said: “I think our view is that we have to reflect on that matter at that time. This is a glorious, world-class sporting occasion. We don’t want to be the people that taint that. But we also don’t want to be the collateral damage of this.

“And that’s why we took the legal route. It was just to say we’ve had a different opinion, two different opinions, one from the QC, that challenges that rigidity over scheduling.”

Typhoon Hagibis forced the cancellation of England against France and New Zealand’s clash with Italy, with Canada and Namibia’s meeting in Kamaishi also falling foul of Japan’s biggest storm since 1958.

“We were very clear with everyone before the tournament about the detailed contingency plans in place but also tournament rules about how contingency plans could be implemented”
- Alan Gilpin

Rugby World Cup rules state that any pool-stage match deemed unplayable due to the weather cannot be staged on a different day.

Scotland felt those regulations were open to challenge due to “force majeure” measures, with Dodson repeatedly demanding a “common sense approach”.

Gilpin insisted on Tuesday that all appropriate tournament rules had been followed during the typhoon.

“Our sympathies are with the families of those who lost loved ones and the millions affected by Typhoon Hagibis,” said Gilpin.

Japan and Scotland
Japan and Scotland observe a minute’s silence for the victims of Typhoon Hagibis (David Davies/PA)

“We were very clear with everyone before the tournament about the detailed contingency plans in place but also tournament rules about how contingency plans could be implemented.

“Tournament rules for Rugby World Cup specify that for the pool phase any match not completed on the day scheduled will be not moved to a different day. This is clear in the tournament rules and not new at Rugby World Cup 2019.

“Those contingency plans were in place, including back-up venues. But the rules do not allow for postponements to be affected in pool matches.

“What became clear was the incredible size of the typhoon, with it being 1400km wide only three match venues were outside of the typhoon’s path.

“We were not able to implement contingency plans that would treat all matches and teams consistently and fairly.

“We would only vary those rules if we could treat all teams consistently and fairly. But we couldn’t.

“So that led to the difficult decision to cancel two matches on Saturday.

“We did have contingency venue plans for the other three matches on the Sunday, but they were always dependent on damaged caused by the typhoon.

“Pleasingly of course we played those three matches as scheduled.

“We were consistent with everything laid out before the tournament.

“While we had appropriate discussions with a number of unions, no decisions were based on pressure from any particular unions.

“And it’s also important to clarify that we did not have those discussions with Ireland.”