By Mitch Phillips
(Reuters) – England prop Mako Vunipola said he is praying for those affected by Typhoon Hagibis – including members of his own family – as England continue their World Cup preparations in Miyazaki, around 870 km (540 miles) to the south-west of Tokyo.
Four people died and 17 are missing after the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in decades hammered the Tokyo area on Saturday, causing widespread flooding and leaving almost half a million homes without power.
England had been due to play France in Yokohama on Saturday night but the game was cancelled as the serious threat posed by the huge storm became apparent.
To avoid it the squad decamped for a “beef and beer” break at the holiday resort where they had their pre-tournament training camp and well away from the Typhoon’s path. From there they will have a three-hour coach trio to Oita on Monday, where they will continue the build up to their quarter-final in a week’s time – likely to be against Australia.
After a full-on training session on Saturday, Vunipola said: “It’s worrying, but we’re lucky – we’re pretty sheltered from a lot of that. I didn’t realise how big or how bad the typhoon was going to be until we got told the news.
“Obviously you’re focused on rugby but you know it’s not the be-all and end-all.”
Vunipola’s father Fe’ao, a former captain of Tonga, was in Tokyo for the France game, along with other members of his extended family.
“You worry for people’s safety in typhoons and you hope and pray that nothing serious does happen,” Vunipola said.
Vunipola is in the running for his first start of the tournament as he battles back to fitness from a serious hamstring injury sustained in May.
His brother Billy is also expected to be fit after twisting an ankle and having to come off at halftime in the win over Argentina.
“He’s in good spirits and confident he’ll be available for selection, which is good for him,” Mako said of the number eight. “He’s done all his bits with icing and he’s under good care with the physios.”
Winger Jack Nowell, who made his first appearance since May coming off the bench against Argentina, is the only other member of the squad to be a fitness doubt for the quarter-final but it is expected he will be available for selection.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips in Tokyo, editing by Shri Navaratnam)