The All Blacks have hit contingency mode after having their final Rugby World Cup pool match cancelled, but there are no grumbles from coach Steve Hansen who applauds World Rugby for making a sensible decision all about safety.
On Thursday World Rugby announced it was calling off both the All Blacks’ final Pool B clash against Italy in Toyota and the pivotal Pool C clash between England and France in Yokohama because of the looming Super Typhoon Hagibis which was due to hit Japan, and specifically the Tokyo area, over the weekend.
It is the first time in history that a Rugby World Cup match has been called off.
“Based on the latest detailed information from the tournament’s independent weather experts, Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season and is highly likely to cause considerable disruption in the Tokyo, Yokohama and Toyota City areas throughout Saturday, including likely public transport shutdown or disruption,” World Rugby said on Thursday in Tokyo.
“As a result, World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee have taken the difficult, but right decision to cancel matches in the affected areas on safety grounds.”
That left the All Blacks in somewhat of a vacuum, with no match to play on Saturday and just short of a two-week hiatus between their last match (Namibia) and their quarterfinal next Saturday in Yokohama against the second finisher from Pool A.
They are also in a logistical no-man’s land, unsure of when they will be able to move from their current Tokyo Bay residence into the inner-city Japan hotel they have been designated for quarterfinal week. They also face having an enforced day off from training on Saturday and maybe even Sunday, depending on how soon things clear up after the typhoon.
But Hansen had no qualms with the lot he had been dealt when he spoke to media at the team’s Disneyland complex hotel on Thursday.
“Everyone knew this was a possibility and we all knew what the process would be if it did occur,” Hansen said. “When you get a typhoon … to the level we’re getting then safety is the paramount thing. So it’s a no-brainer.
“Apart from Brodie [Retallick] and Jack Goodhue who probably need a bit of footy, it’s not a disruptive thing at all. You can look at it as a negative or a positive. We’re choosing to look at it as a positive. It now gives us more time to play against whomever it is we get in a quarterfinal and we just have to modify our training.”
But Hansen admitted he felt for Italy who were denied their long-shot crack at an unlikely quarterfinal spot. To do so they would have had to secure a bonus point victory over the All Blacks – a side they’ve never beaten in their history.
“This is our biggest tournament and it only comes round every four years. Is it frustrating? Of course it is. But the reality is we can’t control the weather. The inconvenient fact then is it comes down to what do we do here. Do we charge on and put people’s lives at risk? Or do we lead and make a decision around making sure people are safe? It’s a no-brainer.
“I won’t say what I was about to say, but a man from America could have even made this decision.”
Hansen said it was important now the All Blacks “adapted and adjusted” ahead of a quarterfinal against one of Japan, Scotland or Ireland, depending on how things played out in Pool A which at this stage is set to go ahead.
“The players have to get their heads round the fact they’re not playing and the coaching group and strength and conditioning have to change our training accordingly. So instead of having a captain’s run, we’ll have a different type of run.
“What we going to do on Saturday? Probably stay inside would be a good idea, I reckon. That’s pretty simple. Sunday we’ll see what the weather allows us to do and Monday hopefully we’ll get back into training and getting ready for a quarterfinal.”
Hansen said there would be no special training match scheduled, and that they would get in the physical training they needed to amongst the 31 fit players they have available.
He would not confirm the team that would have played Italy because “there’s no point”.
As for the likely quarterfinal opponent, Hansen said he had no clue how Sunday’s likely decider between Japan and Scotland would play out, or even if it would take place in the wake of what’s likely to be a destructive storm on Saturday.
“You would think the way Japan have been playing they would win. But you’ve got another team who have a really emotional reason to win because they have to. It could go any way.
“All I hope is they get to play and it’s a wonderful game of rugby because it will make something positive out of a weekend that hasn’t been so positive.”
This content was originally published here.