A tropical cyclone heading for Tokyo is a potential warning sign that the Rugby World Cup could face significant disruption.

Tropical Storm Faxai is expected to develop into a typhoon and may hit Tokyo over the weekend or at the start of next week, less than two weeks before the start of the competition.

The storm brings into focus the potential disruption at the Rugby World Cup with the prospect of cancelled games causing havoc in the pool stage.

A storm tracker shows the likely path of Faxai as it strengthens to hurricane force. Photo / JTWC
A storm tracker shows the likely path of Faxai as it strengthens to hurricane force. Photo / JTWC

The Guardian

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reported that tournament organisers have been bracing themselves for weather disruption, as Japan averages around 30 typhoons and 1,500 earthquakes a year, but Faxai's potential arrival so close to the start of the tournament underlines the threat posed.

The All Blacks play their four pool matches in Yokohama, Oita, Tokyo and Toyota.

This time last year the biggest storm for 25 years struck Kobe and Osaka, both of which will be hosting World Cup games.

A general view of the stadium prior to the Pacific Nations Cup match between Japan and Tonga at Hanazono Rugby Staidum on August 3, 2019 in Higashiosaka, Osaka. Photo / Getty Images.
A general view of the stadium prior to the Pacific Nations Cup match between Japan and Tonga at Hanazono Rugby Staidum on August 3, 2019 in Higashiosaka, Osaka. Photo / Getty Images.

Organisers have planned for the possibility of having to relocate teams from their bases or even to move matches to different venues but, if a pool match is cancelled, tournament rules state that both teams will be awarded two points – in effect rendering the result a 0-0 draw.

That in turn could have a significant bearing on the final standings in the pool stage and even hamper some teams' chances of advancing to the knockout stages. Should, for example, South Africa or New Zealand be deemed to draw with Canada or Namibia – teams against which they would expect to secure comfortable bonus point wins – the standings in Pool B could be significantly skewed.

A World Rugby spokesperson told the Guardian: "Any pool match that cannot be played on the same day will be determined a draw with two match points each. However, we will be doing everything we can to ensure that the match is played in a safe environment for teams and fans."

The most high-profile weather-affected World Cup match in recent memory was the 1995 semi-final between France and the eventual winners South Africa. A deluge in Durban forced kick-off to be delayed by an hour, though tournament rules state that any cancelled match in the knockout stages will be rescheduled.

For pool stage fixtures, if the match begins but is abandoned before half‑time, two points will also be awarded to both teams although points scored in the match, and bonus points, will still count. The result will stand if a match is abandoned at or after half-time and the same cut-off point applies in knockout matches.

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