TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said cancelling Saturday’s World Cup match against Italy due to Typhoon Hagibis was a ‘no-brainer’ but he also had sympathy for the Azzurri after they were denied a chance to play for a place in the quarter-finals.
Italy’s slim hopes of staying in the tournament were wrecked by Thursday’s decision to scrap the Pool B match in Toyota. Both teams were awarded two points, meaning world champions New Zealand will move on as pool winners while Italy go home.
Hansen said that while having the match called off was frustrating, World Rugby had no other option.
“The reality is we can’t control the weather,” Hansen said.
“Do we charge on and put people’s lives at risk, or do we lead and make a decision that’s around making sure people are safe?
“It’s a no-brainer.”
England’s final first-round match against France was also called off due to the typhoon, the first World Cup fixtures ever to be cancelled. [L3N26V0MJ]
Having already lost to South Africa, Italy’s path to the quarter-finals would have involved the unlikely scenario of them beating the All Blacks for the first time.
Hansen said all teams had been aware of the procedure in the event of a typhoon striking Japan, which is why it had been important to take maximum points throughout the tournament.
“If you want to be really ruthless, then it’s all about making sure you win the games on the way through because everyone knew this could be a possibility,” he added.
“That’s pretty hard-nosed, though, because I know if we were in their situation, we’d be disappointed not to have the opportunity to get there.
“So yes, there’s a lot of sympathy for them. But the right decisions are being made, because it’s all about safety.”
Typhoons are not unusual in Japan in autumn but Hansen backed World Rugby’s decision to put on the tournament, the first to be held in Asia, in its usual slot in the calendar.
“It’s always a risk at this time of year with the typhoons, but this is when we play the Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“If you play it earlier, you run the risk of people dying on the footy field because it’ll be 40 degrees.
“If you play it later, then that’s when we are finished for Christmas so you’d have Santa Claus giving us the World Cup.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Karishma Singh/Peter Rutherford)