Legal Chaos Threatens Rugby World Cup

We’ve had similar with Junior B Hurling Championships down the country no doubt but few could have forecast that the Rugby World Cup was at risk of descent into a legal battle over rules and regulations.

Up until late last night in Japan, Scotland Rugby bosses were insisting that if there crunch Pool A clash against Japan on Sunday does not go ahead, and they are eliminated as a result, that they will take immediate legal action.

There is a ‘force majeure’ clause in the rules of the tournament which suggest that games might be moved in exceptional circumstances and that appears to be the Scots claim.

With the France England and New Zealand Italy games already cancelled and points distributed, as well as Italy being eliminated, any change to the ‘we have no choice’ line from yesterday could spark a domino effect of further challenges.

Ireland’s game against Samoa is set to go ahead though the Japanese Grand Prix has also been cancelled on safety grounds as Super Typhoon Hagibis bears down on parts of the country.

Scottish Coach Gregor Townsend is no doubt regretting his words during the week when the potential of the Irish match being cancelled was raised when he suggested that the rules are the rules.

That was creating a hostage to a fortune now the boot is on the other foot but a worldwide reaction has been one of surprise that a greater level of flexibility and contingency was not in place from a long way out.

It’s never quite as easy as some suggestions that ‘all we need are a pitch, two teams and a set of officials’ but on the other hand, maybe it is.

Rescheduling the fans is a bigger logistical nightmare and broadcast rights might come into the mix as well but if there is a possibility of getting a result then the feeling is that whatever has to be done should be done.

Administration of massive tournaments – and smaller ones – can be a thankless task but you either have to rigidly stick to rules that have been agreed in advance and bite the bullet of anger and frustration from those impacted or you get things done so that the sporting result is the one that counts.

We reported earlier in the tournament that the IRFU’s legal advisers William Fry were at the ready to fly to Japan for any issues that might have arisen in the course of the tournament. It was thought this would most likely be around citing issues.

If Scotland follow through on the threat of legal action, and Ireland have failed to secure a bonus-point win over Samoa, then we will be a very interested party.

Whether the legal action would take place in Japan, in Switzerland at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or in Dublin where World Rugby is based is anybody’s guess.

The most likely outcome is that the Scotland game will go ahead. It is only in the case of an immediate threat to the health or life of fans, players and officials that you could see it called off when the repercussions of that are so immense.

Can you imagine the opprobrium that would be heaped on FIFA or UEFA should such a situation arise in football, or closer to home on the GAA should there be such a situation arise?

Image Credit: World Rugby

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