October 9, 2019 1:14:43 PM
England will learn on Thursday whether their World Cup group decider against France will be cancelled or relocated due to the approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis.
World Rugby has called a press conference for 4am BST, when it will outline its plans for the climax to Pool C, which is in the path of a tropical storm described by the Japanese Meteorological Agency as “violent”.
If Hagibis continues on its current trajectory, it will hit mainland Japan on Saturday, when the Six Nations rivals are due to clash, and its impact is expected to last until beyond the following day, when the tournament hosts meet Scotland.
The options available to World Rugby are either to cancel the match or move it to Oita, where the quarter-finals are being staged, making it the most obvious choice logistically.
England have been in contact with the game’s global governing body but it is refusing to comment on its plans amid conflicting reports over what course of action will be taken.
As typhoons change direction and lose strength, it may be leaving it as late as possible to make a decision that would cause chaos to travelling Red Rose supporters.
On the same day that World Rugby was assessing its options, the Tokyo district where England are based was shaken by two earthquakes in the space of 12 hours.
Satellite images of the extreme weather event reveal that it is the size of Japan and shows no sign of deviating in its path or decreasing in magnitude.
It dwarfs Typhoon Faxai, which brought Tokyo to a standstill for the day of England’s arrival in Japan, delaying their exit from Narita Airport by six hours and leaving a million homes without power, killing three people and injuring scores more.
While England and France have already guaranteed their places in the knockout phase, it would mean they enter the quarter-finals without having played for a fortnight – potentially leaving them under-cooked.
“One thing we really pride ourselves on is being adaptable and flexible for anything that may throw us off,” defence coach John Mitchell said.
“If there are other factors that are outside our control, then we’ll find another way to prepare very well.
“Ultimately, though, we’re looking forward to playing France and that’s where our focus is.
“It’s where our preparation is totally focused and we don’t let that noise enter our preparation. It is not something we decide – it’s World Rugby’s decision.”
England are due to announce their team to face France on Thursday morning and, even if the game does go ahead, Billy Vunipola, Joe Marler and Jack Nowell will almost certainly be missing.
Vunipola, the Saracens number eight Eddie Jones dare not lose, twisted his left ankle against Argentina last Saturday and it is hoped he will recover in time for the quarter-final against Wales or Australia.
Marler and Nowell were also hurt against the Pumas and England are unlikely to take any risks with their respective back and hamstring injuries.
Returning to the treatment room is a bitter pill for Nowell to swallow after he made his long-awaited comeback at Tokyo Stadium last Saturday having battled an ankle problem for several months.
The Exeter wing also had his appendix removed during the squad’s heat camp in Treviso in early September, further delaying his recovery.
“It’s just a little hamstring injury. Don’t get me wrong, Jack will be getting slightly frustrated,” Mitchell said.
“We feel for him because he had the return from the injury he had in the Premiership final, then appendicitis and then another little niggle.
“But you saw a moment of brilliance for his try against Argentina – that upper-body strength and power – and he will have taken a lot of satisfaction from that.”