Townsend ‘expects’ backup plan for crucial Japan game after Rugby World Cup hit by Typhoon Hagibis

Scotland Rugby head coach Gregor Townsend says the Scotland camp expect World Rugby to put “contingency plans” in place if their crucial final World Cup Pool A fixture against Japan is called off.

The fixture faces being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, which would leave Gregor Townsend’s side in third place in their pool and eliminated from the tournament.

Two matches on Saturday – New Zealand vs. Italy and England vs. France – have already been cancelled due to the typhoon, with each team awarded two points as a result of a draw being declared.

With a decision on Sunday’s game in Yokohama not being made until the same morning, any rescheduling seems unlikely.

 

In a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday morning, Gregor Townsend reiterated Scottish Rugby’s hopes that going ahead with the fixture will be the preferable plan of action.

“We have to have faith in the organisers that the game will be played even if it’s behind closed doors or at a different venue,” he said.

He added: “What do we need? We need officials, we need players. The way I read the rules was that you can’t change days but you could change venues and contingencies would be in place.

“I’ve since been told there is force majeure (measures in the rules) and things can change because of exceptional circumstances.

“If that means Monday because it takes a day for things to be put back in order then who knows. But right now, I think they’re planning on it going ahead on Sunday.

Journalist Rob Robertson told EN4 News: “The Scotland team have been told the typhoon will reach its peak on Saturday – the eve of their game against Japan – and they have to stay inside their hotel all day for their own safety.”

This will in turn affect the team’s training schedule and could see them go in to the game on Sunday without having had a captain’s run to finalise their game plan before facing the hosts Japan for a place in the quarter finals.

An SRU statement, released earlier in the morning, read: “We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby at all levels to work to ensure our fixture against Japan on Sunday can be played as planned. Public safety is the clear priority.

“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.”

World Rugby also released a statement regarding the issue, with no clear indication of postponement or an alternative to Sunday’s fixtures.

“Every effort is being made to ensure Sunday’s matches will be played as scheduled,” World Rugby said. “A thorough assessment of venues will take place after the typhoon has passed before a final decision is made ‪on Sunday morning.

“The decision to cancel matches has not been taken lightly and has been made in the best interests of public, team, tournament personnel and volunteer safety, based on expert advice and detailed weather information.”

 

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Townsend drops Captain Laidlaw as Russell returns to Scotland lineup against Wales

Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend has made the surprise change by bringing in Ali Price over Greig Laidlaw (Credit: David Ronney)

Scotland Rugby Head Coach, Gregor Townsend has left out nation captain, Greig Laidlaw in his first XV as part of four changes ahead of their match against Wales this weekend.

Ali Price is preferred over Laidlaw at scrum-half as Finn Russell, Willem Nel and Darcy Graham all come into the starting line-up.

Scotland host Wales at BT Murrayfield on Saturday as they look to stop the visitors hopes of a Grand Slam this Six Nations Championship.

With Scotland unable to win the tournament this year, Townsend explained why he made the changes to the side that lost to France two weeks ago.

He said: “We looked at every position. We also reflected on the fact that we are out of the championship now, so if there is someone out there that has really earned his opportunity.

Grieg Laidlaw

Greig Laidlaw has started the last six tests for Scotland (Credit: David Ronney)

“This is a good time to see if it helps the team.”

Russell is a welcome return to the squad after missing the match against France due to a concussion. His creative flair was greatly missed and despite his absence the play-maker still leads in the tournament for most try assists. His total currently sits at three and he will be looking to add to this account in front of a home support.

Price is set to earn his 23rd cap in Scottish colours and Townsend praised the Glasgow Warriors player.

He added: “Ali [Price] is one of the best in the game at moving the ball away quickly, through his own speed but also through his accuracy of pass.

“He has started this season in really good form.”

Gregor Townsend

Scotland have conceded 69 points in three matches this Six Nations (Credit: David Ronney)

Despite criticism Laidlaw has received for his inability to get the ball away quick enough from the break-down, Townsend still sees him playing a pivotal part from the sideline.

He said: “Greig [Laidlaw] is the only player who has started our last six tests so he is a key part of our squad. He is obviously going to play a different role this week from the bench but we see him playing an important part of the game on Saturday.”

Nel returns for his first appearance since coming off injured in the first week of the tournament. He will be a welcome addition to the forward pack which has struggled in the scrum, despite having the heaviest squad in the competition.

The prop only played 49 minutes against Italy but made six tackles and will work to stop a leaky defence that has conceded 69 points in three matches.

Graham makes his first start for Scotland after previously making two appearances as a substitute. He comes in place of the injured Sean Maitland and will join Edinburgh team-mate Blair Kinghorn at the back. The young winger turned full-back has impressed this year scoring three tries and leading the tournament in most carries, metres gained and clean breaks.

Tommy Seymour completes the back three and joins Jonny Gray to earn a half century of caps for his country.

Therefore the squad looks as follows:

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 19.38.59

The squad facing Wales (Credit: David Ronney )

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