A powerful typhoon that organisers have warned could impact the final weekend of the Rugby World Cup pool stage has changed course, leaving forecasters and pundits wondering which games might be affected and who could benefit.
According to the latest modelling from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Super Typhoon Hagibis is now projected to clip southeastern Japan, near Tokyo and Yokohama.
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This is a significant change from Monday's forecast, when the storm was expected to make landfall in Japan's far southwest.
However, such radical changes in direction are not unusual for typhoons nearing Japan, which sees around 20 per year.
Hagibis - dubbed the “strongest storm on the planet” by the Weather Network - could also continue its easterly track and miss Japan altogether.
"The Honshu main islands will see heavy rains from as early as Friday, and the peak of the bad weather will be on Saturday and Sunday," JMA official Yoshinori Muira told AFP.
Hagibis is currently classed as "violent" - the JMA's highest classification, with gusts as strong as 270 kilometres per hour.
It is forecast to weaken before it nears Japan but will still be "very strong".
Atmospheric scientist Matthew Cappucci described Habigis’ rapid intensification as “mind-boggling”, while the Weather Channel said it was “one of the most explosive intensification bursts on record.”
#Hagibis:— Matthew Cappucci (@MatthewCappucci) October 7, 2019
– Tropical storm to Category 5 in 18 hours
– Tropical storm to major hurricane equivalent in 6 hours
– 90 mph intensification in 18 hours
– 3.4 times faster than needed for "rapid intensification"
This is not a multi-day loop. This is 24 hours. It's mind-boggling. pic.twitter.com/cVoXuyCu09
If the current forecast holds, the danger would appear to be lower for crunch games in the southwest (Ireland-Samoa on Saturday in Fukuoka and Wales-Uruguay on Sunday in Kumamoto).
However, with the storm shifting east, there is now a massive threat for two other huge games in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo.
England play France in a Pool C decider in Yokohama on Saturday and Japan play Scotland on Sunday, in a match that will determine whether the hosts qualify for their first quarter-final.
Currently, the strongest storm on the planet -- and on its way to possibly becoming the strongest of the year -- Super Typhoon #Hagibis has gathered strength with astonishing speed.— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) October 7, 2019
Organisers unwilling to make a call yet
Organisers warned later Tuesday that it "remains too early to fully predict the movement and impact of the storm."
"However, the latest modelling by our weather information experts indicates that it is now tracking north and east and will bring strong winds and heavy rain to Tokyo and surrounding areas on 12 October,” they said.
Organisers say they have "robust contingency plans" and can change the venue of a fixture or the timing if bad weather looks set to affect the match.
"Such plans, if required, will only be actioned if the safety of teams, fans, and workforce can be guaranteed," Rugby World Cup organisers said in a statement.
If a match is cancelled during the pool stages of the tournament, it is awarded as a 0-0 draw.
In the case of the England-France game, this would send Eddie Jones's side through as Pool C champions and a quarter-final meeting likely against old rivals Australia.
A 0-0 draw would also guarantee Japan topping Pool A and another clash with the Springboks, whom they famously beat 34-32 in the 2015 "Miracle of Brighton" match.
But a cancellation would be a disaster for the Scots, who would be unable to progress assuming Ireland beat Samoa, as expected, the day before.
Typhoon Hagibis explodes into a beast of a storm. pic.twitter.com/agNZ2EeYQa— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) October 7, 2019