Eddie Jones has walked into a storm.
The England head coach insisted on Friday that Scotland will have only themselves to blame if they are knocked out of the Rugby World Cup with fears growing that Typhoon Hagibis could wipe out their crucial game with Japan.
Jones was in charge of the host nation four years ago and has strong links to Japan. But his biting comments will not be lost on the Scots after he said the situation should not have come as a surprise to Gregor Townsend’s team.
“We’ve been talking about it all the time, about the possibility that this was going to happen … It’s typhoon season here and you’ve got to be prepared for it,” the controversial Australian told a media conference.
Scotland face being eliminated at the group stages of the tournament if Sunday’s Pool A match is canceled because of bad weather.
England’s game against France on Saturday has already been called off because of safety reasons along with the match between New Zealand and Italy after Hagibis morphed into a Super Typhoon.
But Jones’ team will still top their group after winning their first three Pool C games to clinch a quarter-final place.
“We had an idea it could happen and therefore you have to accumulate points in your games to put yourself in the right position in case that happened,” Jones said.
“This is supposed to be a big typhoon, so I don’t see any other option that the organizers had,” he added.
Scotland find themselves in a precarious situation after losing their opener 27-3 to Ireland.
Unless the Irish fail to register a point in their match against Samoa on Saturday, the Scots will need to beat hosts Japan in Yokohama 24 hours later to reach the last eight.
But if their fixture is scratched due to the typhoon, two points from a draw will send them home barring a Samoa shock.
“If you want to be really ruthless, then it’s all about making sure you win the games on the way through because everyone knew this could be a possibility,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said.
Scotland’s toughest pool game, though, was probably their opener against Ireland and some critics argue the order of their fixtures should not have a bearing on quarter-final qualification.
A final decision on whether the Japan-Scotland match in Yokohama goes ahead is set to be delayed until the morning of the match.
Scottish Rugby issued a strongly-worded statement. “With the potential impact on our last Pool A fixture, Scottish Rugby fully expects contingency plans to be put in place to enable Scotland to contest for a place in the quarter-finals on the pitch, and will be flexible to accommodate this,” it said.
But World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin stressed that organizers had to abide by the same rules that had led them to cancel Italy’s game.
“We won’t treat that [Japan-Scotland] match any differently,” he said.
Still, Scottish officials are now reportedly considering legal action to ensure the game goes ahead. They dispute World Rugby’s interpretation of their own rules, arguing tournament organizers can overlook regulations in order that matches be played, which the Scots maintain is the overriding imperative.
On Thursday, Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson was involved in heated discussions with World Rugby to ensure the game goes ahead.
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this game [between Scotland and Japan] on,” a Scottish Rugby spokesman added. “There are 10,000 Scotland supporters here to see their team play, and for the integrity of the sport and this tournament, we’ve got to find a way to deliver on our undertaking to stage this game.
“The fans, players and everyone who loves rugby will demand nothing less. The whole situation is almost beyond belief,” the spokesman added.
– additional reporting AFP