England: Squad prepared for typhoon World Cup disruption against France


England are preparing to face France in Yokohama on Saturday
Rugby World Cup Pool C: England v France
Venue: International Stadium Yokohama Dates: Saturday, 12 October. Kick-off: 09:15 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

England’s rugby team are preparing for their World Cup match with France to be moved or cancelled as Typhoon Hagabis continues its destructive path towards Japan.

World Rugby will announce at 04:00 BST on Thursday where or whether the game might take place, with the category five super typhoon on course to hit the main island of Honshu some time on Saturday.

England are scheduled to meet France in Yokohama that afternoon before Scotland’s critical group decider against hosts Japan in the same stadium on Sunday.

But torrential rain and violent winds are forecast in Tokyo and Yokohama, with tournament regulations stating that games can be moved or cancelled if weather conditions deteriorate.

England defence coach John Mitchell said: “Whatever happens, we will make the best of the situation.

“We’re looking forward to playing France. Clearly if there is any change in those final preparations, we’ve got to be smart if that’s going to happen, so we’ll definitely pre-plan.

“At the end of the day you just control what you can control, so should something happen in terms of where we play, that’s not a problem because all along we’ve focused on adapting and being flexible, being ready for any particular situation that’s thrown at us.”

Rumours emerged on Tuesday night in Japan that England’s game – which will decide the Pool C winners – might be switched to Oita, on the southern island of Kyushu, and be played behind closed doors.

Moving either of the weekend’s two matches from Yokohama would be a huge logistical challenge for World Cup organisers, with tens of thousands of travelling fans expected in Tokyo for the game and the 70,000 capacity of the scheduled stadium not matched by any other ground in the tournament.

But there is also the strong possibility that World Rugby will decide that the match should be cancelled, with the safety of those spectators plus players and officials paramount.

England have already qualified for the quarter-finals but Scotland’s progression may depend on getting their game played and winning in style.

Games that are cancelled are registered as scoreless draws, which means that if Ireland beat Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday then Gregor Townsend’s team would be out.

England’s arrival in Japan last night coincided with the end of Typhoon Faxai, the strongest storm to hit the country in more than half a century.

That typhoon left them stranded at Narita international airport for five hours, an experience that Mitchell believes could serve them well with weekend.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It goes back to the typhoon that was here when we arrived – we found a number of hours to create good humour and fun and enjoyment waiting for a bus then.

“If that’s an example of what we’ve experienced before, making adjustments to travel to play the game somewhere else certainly won’t affect us.

“We expect to play, and World Rugby I’m sure would like the game to be played.

“But if that should be taken out of our hands, we will then back our very strong training methodology to prepare us in another way.”

Injured Vunipola ‘progressing’

Mitchell was one of many England staff awoken early on Wednesday morning by a small earthquake in the Tokyo region, registering 4.5 on the Richter scale but with its epicentre 75km away.

If that interrupted the sleep of those on the 34th floor of the team’s hotel in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, there was more reassuring news about the fitness of key number eight Billy Vunipola.

Vunipola injured his left ankle in Saturday’s win over Argentina and has been wearing a surgical boot while sitting out training in the early part of this week.

Mitchell, who confirmed that centre Jack Nowell has a slight hamstring injury that could rule him out of the France game, said: “You can do an ankle on the outside and you can do an ankle on the inside – Billy got tackled low, and so there’s a little bit of inflammation on the inside.

“He’s progressing. We might be fortunate on the weekend; we might not be. Definitely we won’t risk him if it’s a risk. All in all, he’s going well.

“If he’s not healthy on the weekend then definitely we feel he’ll be available and considered for selection for the quarters.

“Jack hasn’t had much luck. He’s progressing really well, but we probably won’t risk him if we feel there’s any doubt of further injuring him.”

A win over France or a cancellation would see England top their group and move into a probable quarter-final match with Australia, who knocked them out at the group stages of the last World Cup en route to the final.

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