A powerful typhoon that organizers have warned could impact the final weekend of the Rugby World Cup pool stage has changed course, leaving forecasters and pundits wondering which games might be affected and who could benefit.
According to the latest modeling from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Super Typhoon Hagibis is now projected to clip southeastern Japan, near Tokyo and Yokohama.
This is a significant change from Monday’s forecast, when the storm was expected to make landfall in Japan’s far southwest. However, such radical changes in direction are not unusual for typhoons nearing Japan, which sees about 20 per year.
Hagibis could also continue its easterly track and miss Japan altogether.
“The Honshu main islands will see heavy rains from as early as Friday, and the peak of the bad weather will be on Saturday and Sunday,” said JMA official Yoshinori Muira.
Hagibis is now classed as “violent” – the JMA’s highest classification, with gusts as strong as 270 kilometers, or 165 miles, per hour. It is forecast to weaken before it nears Japan, but will still be “very strong.”
If the current forecast holds, the danger would appear to be lower for crunch games in the southwest – Ireland-Samoa on Saturday in Fukuoka and Wales-Uruguay on Sunday in Kumamoto.
However, with the storm shifting east, there is now a threat for two other huge games in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo.
England play France in a Pool C decider in Yokohama on Saturday and Japan play Scotland on Sunday, in a match that will determine whether the hosts qualify for their first quarter-final.
Organizers warned late on Tuesday that it “remains too early to fully predict the movement and impact of the storm.”
“However, the latest modeling by our weather information experts indicates that it is now tracking north and east and will bring strong winds and heavy rain to Tokyo and surrounding areas on 12 October.”
Organizers say they have “robust contingency plans” and can change the venue of a fixture or the timing if bad weather looks set to affect the match.
“Such plans, if required, will only be actioned if the safety of teams, fans and workforce can be guaranteed,” Rugby World Cup organizers said in a statement.
If a match is canceled during the pool stages of the tournament, it is awarded as a 0-0 draw.
In the case of the England-France game, this would send Eddie Jones’s side through as Pool C champions and a quarter-final meeting likely against old rivals Australia.
A 0-0 draw would also guarantee Japan topping Pool A and another clash with the Springboks, whom they famously beat 34-32 in the 2015 “Miracle of Brighton” match.
But a cancellation would be a disaster for the Scots, who would be unable to progress assuming Ireland beat Samoa, as expected, the day before.