Kiwi rugby fans will be forced to hunker down in their Japanese hotels this weekend as a massive typhoon that forced the cancellation of the All Blacks-Italy World Cup clash smashes into the country.
Organisers yesterday made the unprecedented decision to call off two Rugby World Cup matches as Typhoon Hagibis bore down on the country with winds close to 200km/h.
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The typhoon is set to hit a swathe of Japan from Osaka to Tokyo, leading to the cancellation of Yokohama's England-France and Toyota's All Blacks-Italy game on Saturday.
That's thrown travel plans into disarray for thousands of disappointed fans booked to travel to Toyota, 241km west of Tokyo, and left many in the typhoon's firing line.
Ross Jamieson, director of BCD Travel, said most All Black fans were due to arrive in Japan after the typhoon passes for the World Cup quarter finals.
However, his agency still had a sizeable number of fans heading to Toyota for Saturday's now-cancelled All Black-Italy clash and F1's Japanese Grand Prix, also scheduled for the weekend.
Some were rebooking their travels, but with accommodation short across the country, many were set to weather the storm in Toyota.
"In terms of people's plans that doesn't really change," Jamieson said.
"They will just need to hunker down during that 12 hour period and then they carry on with their travels as normal."
Jamieson expected World Rugby to refund tickets to the cancelled game but was waiting for confirmation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said 638 Kiwis were registered as being in Japan, but was unsure how many would be in the typhoon's firing line.
TAB confirmed all bets already made on Saturday's cancelled clash would be refunded, while TVNZ and Spark Sport have announced they will screen a special 90-minute show, called RWC 2019 The Story So Far, in place of the All Blacks game.
Expert meteorologist on East Asia, Robert Speta, told Newstalk ZB the typhoon had "explosively" developed from a small storm to be last night covering a massive area and packing winds close to 200km/h.
"Once it turns to Japan, it is not going to hit just one area. All the way from Osaka up to Tokyo will get hit on Saturday," he said.
He said western Japan generally had infrastructure better able to deal with typhoons.
"But the closer you get to Tokyo, whenever you get those winds gusting over 100km/h, it definitely causes some major issues," he said.
This could include downed powerlines, flying debris and disrupted flights and services.
"It is one reason why they likely did cancel these games. It is not so much that the weather itself would disrupt the play, it is more so for the spectators as they head out after the match, they will have to travel through these rough conditions," Speta said.
Speta said a lot of the major train lines in Tokyo and other cities shut down at the approach of typhoons.
"So even if people are at the hotel they will have no way to get to the games," he said.
The New Zealand Government's Safe Travel website said Typhoon Hagibis was forecast to make landfall as a Category 2 or 3 typhoon on Saturday, bringing heavy rain, flash flooding, and destructive winds which may reach speeds of over 178km/h.
Kiwis were advised to seek suitable shelter and not venture outside or near the sea during the typhoon.
Jamieson, whose BCD Travel was one of three official New Zealand sub-agents able to offer Rugby World Cup tour packages, said while the cancelled game was a huge disappointment for fans, he hoped the disruption would be minimal.
Most fans were on longer tourist trips and were likely to continue taking in the sights and sounds before catching an upcoming quarterfinal match.
"I don't know of anyone that has flown over for just that Italy game with that being their whole focus," he said.
Rugby World Cup punters breathe easy. Betting firm TAB says all bets on Saturday's cancelled All Blacks-Italy game should be refunded by today.
TAB spokesman Mark Stafford said while the cancelled game was a big disappointment for rugby fans, the early warning meant few were out of pocket.
"At this stage we are probably holding only about 5 per cent of what our eventual turnover would be on the game," he said.
"So if there are any early bird betters, they will be refunded today."
"Any cancelled match is refunded."
Stafford said most bets were laid once the teams were named and then again on game day.
TAB expected to turnover about $1 million on the All Blacks game, he said.
"It is really disappointing for us as fans of the game. But generally the seven All Black games would be the biggest of the tournament and to lose one of them from a business point of view is disappointing as well."
"I'm just pleased it happened a couple of days out, they've given us plenty of warning."