Speaking through teeth that could grit diamonds into dust, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend described the prospect of their final Pool A match against Japan being cancelled as very unusual and strange. For such masterful disguise of his actual feelings, Townsend should be awarded the Nobel Prize for diplomacy.

In public, Scotland are projecting confidence that what should be a quarter-final decider in Yokohama will take place tomorrow, pointing to the sunny skies that are forecast to follow Typhoon Hagibis into Tokyo. They also believe that should the destruction wrought by what are predicted to be 240km/h winds render the Yokohama Stadium unfit for purpose then there are several alternative venues within the city where the match could be restaged - even proposing that they would be more than happy to play the game behind closed doors.

Much of this flies in the face of World Rugby's assessments.

After tournament director Alan Gilpin stated at a press conference that there would be no contingency plans if the game could not go ahead, the Scottish Rugby Union released a statement saying "it fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarter-finals on the pitch". Spot the difference.


The mood within the Scottish camp is best described as quietly seething. What a change from Monday, when it was Pool A rivals Ireland's game against Samoa in Fukuoka that seemed to be under threat. Back then, what was labelled "Typhoon Haggis" was Scotland's ally sent to blow the Irish off course. It is no longer a laughing matter. Assuming Ireland pick up at least one point from their match against Samoa tonight, cancellation would result in a 0-0 draw being recorded and Scotland's elimination from the World Cup.

Suddenly the permutations of Pool A in which Scotland need to claim four more match points than Japan do not seem half as complicated as ascertaining whether World Rugby would be in breach of its own regulations by cancelling the game.

A precedent has already been set by the governing body's decision to cancel the England v France and Italy v New Zealand fixtures. However unlikely it may seem, Italy could have qualified with a bonus-point victory against the All Blacks. There is clearly far more on the line between Scotland and Japan, but World Rugby has insisted that it cannot apply special treatment and must abide by tournament rules that state pool games that cannot be fulfilled on specified dates should be declared draws.

Privately, Scottish officials are furious and dispute this interpretation of World Rugby's own rules, believing cancellation would damage the integrity of the tournament. As far as they are concerned, World Cup organisers have the power to overlook the regulations in order for matches to be fulfilled. They also point to provisions for a force majeure in the tournament participation agreement which includes a "storm or tempest", a description Typhoon Hagibis certainly fits. World Rugby will make a final decision on the match six hours before the 11.45pm kick-off, by which time it is hoped Hagibis would have departed. What state Tokyo is left in is another matter.

Nevertheless, Townsend remains confident the fixture can go ahead, even if it is played behind closed doors.

"I would hope that everyone who is involved in the tournament would want the game to be played and that they will do all they can to ensure that it is," Townsend said. "I have looked at the weather and Sunday night looks to be quite calm.

"What might happen is that the infrastructure might not be in place, although the weather is nice.''