World Rugby ‘disappointed’ as Scotland chief takes legal advice over Japan fixture
Scotland chief executive Mark Dodson refused to rule out legal action to make sure the Pool A clash at Yokohama goes ahead.
A war of words has broken out between World Rugby and the Scottish Rugby Union after Murrayfield chief executive Mark Dodson urged the global governing body to see sense and push their win-or-bust showdown with Japan out of Super Typhoon Hagibis’ path of destruction.
Dodson made his call as he refused to rule out taking legal action to make sure the climax to Pool A at Yokohama’s International Stadium goes ahead.
But that sparked an angry response from World Rugby, who said they were “disappointed” with Dodson’s comments after insisting the Scots were happy to sign up to the rules which prohibit pool matches being rescheduled before the tournament.
Scotland could be knocked out of the competition without kicking another ball if the “explosive” super storm forces Sunday’s quarter-final decider to be cancelled.
Dodson wants the game pushed back 24 hours, claiming World Rugby would be risking the “sporting integrity” of the competition if they stick to their decision that the game must be played on Sunday or not at all.
The tournament organisers insisted the SRU were happy to sign up to the World Cup’s “terms of participation” – which sets out the ban on rescheduling pool matches – before the tournament kicked-off.
In a statement, the governing body 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.”
It 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.”
Earlier, Dodson revealed he had sought expert legal opinion which says the tournament organisers do have the right under ‘force majeure’ measures to reschedule pool matches despite World Cup rules clearly stating they may only go ahead on their originally planned date.
The 1,400km-wide Hagibis has already forced the cancellation of England v France and New Zealand v Italy – ending the Azzurri’s faint hopes of reaching the last eight – on Saturday and World Rugby say it would not be fair to bend the rules for the Scots.
Speaking at a press conference staged at the Scotland team hotel in Yokohama, he said: “As it stands World Rugby are still maintaining the position that if the game can’t take place on Sunday, there will be a cancellation.
“We took legal advice that challenged the view, and then we got a QC from a leading sports practice in London, Nick DeMarco, and he backed the fact there is flexibility in the schedule.
“What we really need to be talking about is a common-sense approach for what has been and promises to be fantastic tournament, we really need to be thinking what the supporters over here, the Japanese people and rugby supporters want to see happen. And that is what we want to be talking about.
“We are the last game to be played and it’s a huge, pivotal game.
“We don’t want to criticise World Rugby, they’re running a first-class tournament, and I’m convinced they’ll do everything they can to get this game played on Sunday, and the weather at the moment looks like it’s slightly improving.
“What we’re asking for is a common-sense approach that allows this game to be played in perfect safety 24 hours after the storm clears.”