"Listen, people could lose their lives" - Flannery puts typhoon cancellations in perspective
"Like, it’s a game of rugby"
The news that the fixtures between England and France and Italy and New Zealand have been cancelled has been met with rage, dismay and downright confusion across the world.
People have questioned the "robust contingency plans" World Rugby noted during the week. They have been interested as to why anyone would hold a major tournament in a region/time period where this is commonplace. They have demanded an even playing field for the likes of Italy and (potentially) Scotland, whose World Cup campaigns have (again, potentially in the Scots' case) been prematurely ended.
All of these are legitimate concerns, and there will be questions that need to be answered, particularly if hosts Japan top Pool A by default. And by beating Ireland, of course.
But there is only one question that really needs to be answered; is it the right thing to do to keep the thousands of travelling fans, the teams, the emergency personnel and the stadium staff safe?
Sport provides us with moments of genuine euphoria and heart-crushing despair in equal measures (depending on the team you support, of course). Think of the All Blacks' last-gasp try in 2013, James McClean's goal against Wales 2 years ago today, Johnny Sexton's drop goal in the rain in Paris last year or Gaizka Mendieta's scuttery penalty in 2002.
But they are moments, they pass. To put it bluntly; death doesn't.
That might sound dramatic, but video footage of previous typhoons in Japan say more than anyone ever could. These are not Storm Lorenzo-esque false flags, or a fingers-crossed-we-get-the-day-off-work scenarios. Theresa Mannion's Japanese counterpart won't be dispatched to the streets of Yokohama, gamely holding down her hood as the drizzle threatens her mac. There is a genuine threat to life.
Putting any of the stakeholders of the Rugby World Cup in jeopardy is something that is simply non-negotiable, that's at the centre of the decision made by World Rugby today. That can't be forgotten.
Speaking on this week's episode of The JOEpan Rugby Show, Jerry Flannery was sympathetic to the plight of the Scots in particular;
"I could understand Gregor Townsend being so frustrated with it, absolutely. Particularly after the way they played against Russia, and they looked like “ok, we have a lot more in us”. Because they’ve hugely, hugely under-performed at this World Cup for the quality of player they have."
It's hard not to feel sorry for Italy and Scotland. Everyone wants their battle to end on the field, not to be decided in a boardroom through no fault of their own. But, Fla hit the nail on the head when he emphasised the importance of safety and the scale of what people in Japan are facing;
"But, I was just looking at, you know, I just saw on social media people just posting images of the last typhoon that hit in Japan and they say that the one coming is similar if not worse. And, saying like, “listen, people could lose their lives there”. That takes priority, so. Like, it’s a game of rugby. I completely understand, and I have empathy for the Scottish team, but this is what they set out from the start."
There are huge questions to answer, and perhaps even larger ramifications for the tournament as a whole, questions that World Rugby will need to answer;
"I think everyone was going out there and then when it was suddenly said if there’s typhoons the games will either be declared a draw and not played… everyone was kind of like “well, why are we coming out here in typhoon season?”. That’s the question for World Rugby."
For an in-depth preview of Ireland's crucial final Pool A game against Samoa, as well as how Hagibis affects Ireland even more than we might think, watch the full episode of The JOEpan Rugby Show below: