World Rugby has taken the unprecedented step of cancelling two World Cup matches this weekend due to the anticipated impact of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan.

New Zealand vs Italy and England vs France, which were both scheduled for Saturday, have been cancelled. The New Zealand-Italy match had been due to take place in Toyota, while England-France was planned for Yokohama.

World Rugby said efforts were made to introduce a contingency plan, including alternative venues, but ultimately a compromise could not be reached. Fans of the four affected teams will be given a full ticket refund.

Tomorrow’s (Friday’s) match between Australia and Georgia in Shizuoka will go ahead as planned, as will Saturday’s Pool A clash between Ireland and Samoa in Fukuoka. World Rugby said that “every effort is being made” to ensure Sunday’s matches go ahead as planned, with a thorough assessment of venues to be carried out after the typhoon has passed.

Hagibis is predicted to become the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season, with particular disruption expected in Tokyo, Yokohama and City of Toyota areas. The decision to cancel the matches has been taken on safety grounds and each team affected will be awarded two points in line with tournament rules.

World Rugby chief operating officer and tournament director Alan Gilpin said: “This is a complex and dynamic situation which we have been monitoring extremely closely with the assistance of our weather information experts. We are now in a position to accurately predict the likely impact of Typhoon Hagibis on Rugby World Cup fixtures this weekend.

“While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon.”

Gilpin added: “We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first. They will be entitled to a full refund on their match tickets.

“Our message for all fans in Japan for Rugby World Cup is to heed all official advice, stay indoors throughout Saturday and do not attempt to travel on the day.”

The news marks the first time in the tournament’s 32-year history that matches have been cancelled. The cancellations mean that Italy can no longer qualify for the quarter-finals, with the team having needed to beat defending champion New Zealand to progress. New Zealand, England and France were already assured of a quarter-final place.

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