Rugby World Cup organisers on Sunday announced the cancellation of the match between Namibia and Canada due to Typhoon Hagibis but said they were “optimistic” the others could go ahead.
“We were left with no option but to cancel the match on safety grounds,” said tournament director Alan Gilpin, who had already been forced to cancel two other matches as Hagibis approached.
However, Gilpin added: “We remain optimistic that Sunday’s remaining matches will go ahead as scheduled in Kumamoto, Hanazono and Yokohama, which are much further south and therefore outside of the impact of the storm conditions this morning.”
Cancellation is a blow for the northern town of Kamaishi, whose hosting of World Cup games was a potent symbol of recovery from a 2011 tsunami disaster when it was nearly wiped off the map.
It also robs Namibia of a chance to grab their first World Cup win and end their record run of 22 games at the tournament without a victory. Canada are without a win in their last 10 World Cup matches.
The cancellation means that only one game was held at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium — Uruguay’s stunning, 30-27 upset of Fiji in Pool D.
The stadium, the only purpose-built venue at the World Cup, was built on the site of a school which was the scene for the “Miracle of Kamaishi”, when more than 400 children sprinted into the mountains to safety.
“Our hearts go out to the teams and also their fans, but also the people of Kamaishi, who have been incredible during what has been a special journey in recent years,” said Gilpin.
“Nobody will be more disappointed than them, but also nobody would have better empathy with the decision.”
Organisers said fans should not travel to the stadium, which will be closed, and they would be entitled to a full refund.
There have been landslides and flooding in the vicinity of the stadium and along access roads to the venue following torrential rain throughout the night, organisers said in a statement.
All eyes are now on whether the do-or-die match between hosts Japan and Scotland in Yokohama will go ahead.
Detailed venue inspections at Hanazono and Yokohama are currently underway, and an update will be published when that important process has been completed, World Rugby said in a statement.
The Japan-Scotland game has become the subject of an ugly war of words, with the Scots threatening legal action if it is not played.
If the match were cancelled, it would be awarded as a 0-0 draw — sending the Scots home and Japan through to their first quarter-final.
Hagibis made landfall on Saturday evening and barrelled across the country, bringing fierce winds and torrential rain.
It was a direct hit on Tokyo and Yokohama, a city of some three million just south of the capital.
Across the country, at least three people died and several others were injured or reported missing due to the storm, which brought “unprecedented” amounts of rain to the country.
Severe flooding has already taken place with many rivers breaking their banks, including the Tama River which runs through Tokyo.
Organisers have come in for hefty criticism for cancelling two matches planned for Saturday — England vs France and New Zealand vs Italy.
It was the first time in the 32-year history of the Rugby World Cup that a match has been cancelled and fuelled criticism of tournament organisers for hosting it in Japan during typhoon season.
However, organisers said that despite a “robust” contingency plan, the scale of Hagibis, which covered practically the entire country, meant it was unsafe and impractical to move those matches to another venue.