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If All Blacks had needed points there would have been a Plan B: Parisse

Sergio Parisse
Sergio Parisse

By Jack de Menezes

Leading players and coaches have hit out at World Rugby's decision to cancel two matches at the Rugby World Cup, with Italian great Sergio Parisse labelling the move "ridiculous" and the looming threat of legal action materialising if Scotland's showdown with Japan is cancelled.

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Sunday's pool-stage finale is under serious threat of either being played behind closed doors, or cancelled altogether, which would send Scotland crashing out of the competition and hand hosts Japan a free pass into the quarter-finals for the first time.

It would come as the third match cancellation due to Typhoon Hagibis, with tomorrow's games featuring England and France, and New Zealand vs Italy, called off as the largest tropical cyclone to hit Japan in 60 years approaches with 160mph winds and heavy fain.

England were more than happy to leave Tokyo immediately upon the decision being made public and head for the southern city of Miyazaki, well out of harm's way and where they spent nine days before the tournament began.

But other nations were not so content, with the Italian camp feeling particularly aggrieved after the cancellation of their match with the All Blacks not only cost them their chances of reaching the quarter-finals, but robbed a number of their players of a World Cup farewell as they head towards retirement.

Captain Parisse led the criticism of World Rugby, claiming that the failure to have a back-up Plan B for matches when holding a tournament in the middle of typhoon season was "ridiculous".

"It is difficult to know that we won't have the chance to play a match against one of the great teams," said Parisse.

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"If New Zealand needed four or five points against us it would not have been cancelled.

"It is ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made because it isn't like the fans arrived yesterday. It is ridiculous that there was no Plan B, because it isn't news that typhoons hit Japan.

"Sure, everyone might think that Italy versus New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we'd have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team.

"We had the chance to play in a big stadium, against a great team. The alternative is Plan B."

Parisse was supported by his coach Conor O'Shea. "I'm finding it really difficult and I saw the players' reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field," said the Irishman.

Worse could follow though if Scotland's and Japan's encounter is cancelled although by kick-off time in Yokohama on Sunday, the typhoon is expected to have passed, fuelling Scotland's optimism that the game will go ahead - which Scotland need to happen to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

Head coach Gregor Townsend took an optimistic approach.

"We believe that the game hasn't been cancelled because the weather will be better on Sunday and it looks like the game will be played," Townsend said.

"We have got to believe, and have faith in the organisers, that the game will be played, even if it is behind closed doors or played at a different venue."

Belfast Telegraph


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