SCOTLAND vowed to hit World Rugby with a legal storm if Typhoon Hagibis turns the World Cup into a farce.
The Scots and coach Gregor Townsend will be out of Japan 2019 if their crunch game against the hosts is called off in Yokohama after an inspection at 10pm on Saturday.
And top barristers are adamant the competition’s failure to find an alternative venue is grounds for court action.
World Rugby hit back, pointing out that all teams signed the terms of competition and that the organisers were doing everything to ensure the safety of players and fans.
But Nick De Marco QC, who is behind Scotland’s threat of legal action, says although the rules do not allow for matches to be postponed, there is nothing to say they cannot be moved to a different venue.
The ‘super typhoon’ will hit Tokyo and the country’s east coast on Saturday with winds of 160mph, 40 feet-plus waves and around 20 inches of rainfall predicted in 24 hours.
World Rugby said: “It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday’s matches to take place as scheduled, and when there is a real and significant threat to public safety.
“The Scottish Rugby Union signed the Rugby World Cup 2019 terms of participation, which clearly state in Section 5.3: “Where a pool match cannot be commenced on the day in which it is scheduled, it shall not be postponed to the following day, and shall be considered as cancelled.”
London-based barrister De Marco said: “If the only obstacles to a change of venue are logistical ones, then World Rugby needs to find a way round those problems. There are other games going ahead this weekend. Not all of Japan will be affected by the typhoon.
“World Rugby may feel they find themselves in a very difficult position, but they need to salvage the reputation of their competition. To do that, they have to make sure Scotland are given the chance to go through.
“The advice I gave Scottish Rugby is that having looked closely at the rules of the competition, and the principles behind those rules, there is a duty of fairness on World Rugby to make sure they do absolutely everything possible to make sure this game gets played.
“The integrity of the competition can be protected only if the teams involved have an opportunity to progress.”
Japan coach Jamie Joseph hit back at Scotland and said they would have to accept a 0-0 draw as his side have put themselves in a better position going into the game.
He said: “These reports have undermined the significance the match holds for Japan. We have won three Tests so far and put ourselves in the best position in the pool.
“I would remind everyone that this is not a fluke. Everyone in our camp wants to play and earn the right to be considered one of the elite teams.
“All the talk of legal proceedings around something uncontrollable like a typhoon ignores how significant this match is for us, the most significant in our history. We have never made the quarter-finals before and we have never beaten Scotland. We want to have the chance to achieve those firsts.”
De Marco has published several books on sporting law and is co-author of a 2016 book entitled Challenging Sports Governing Bodies.
He said the fact that there had been no complaints when the matches between New Zealand and Italy and England against France were cancelled was irrelevant. He added: “The important point here is that in this case, a cancellation would directly determine whether Scotland would progress to the next stage or not.”
The row overshadowed the other Pool A match today, with Ireland needing a bonus point victory over Samoa in Fukuoka to be sure of going through.
But last night Japan was bracing itself for a storm that was being compared to the 1958 typhoon that inflicted a death toll of more than 1,200.