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Rugby World Cup fanzones closed as powerful typhoon nears Japan
[TOKYO] Rugby World Cup organisers issued an extreme weather warning and closed two fanzones on Saturday as a large and powerful typhoon approaches Japan, but said matches are expected to escape unscathed.
Typhoon Tapah has formed off the southwest coast of Japan and is expected to clip the western portion of the country before taking direct aim at the northern island of Hokkaido.
The storm should arrive too late to affect the two matches being played in Hokkaido this weekend - Australia against Fiji on Saturday and England v Tonga on Sunday.
"The typhoon could bring high winds and heavy rain to the southern island of Kyushu on the evening of 22 September and into 23 September," World Rugby said in a statement.
"While no match disruption is anticipated at this stage, we have advised teams of potential disruption to training and team movements as a precautionary measure," added the statement.
Fanzones in Kumamoto and Fukuoka have also been temporarily closed as a precaution, organisers said, stressing that typhoons "are a normal occurrence in Japan and the vast majority have a minimal impact on daily life".
Japan is one of the most natural-disaster prone countries in the world, subject to around 20 typhoons a year and hundreds of earthquakes of various sizes.
Typhoon Faxai smashed through Tokyo and nearby Chiba on the weekend before the tournament started, killing two people and sparking travel chaos at Narita Airport. Tens of thousands of households in Chiba were left without power for several days.
The storm also had an impact on the preparations for the World Cup. England were stuck at Narita Airport for five hours, while Australia postponed their arrival in Japan to avoid the typhoon.
Organisers have put in a "meticulous" system of contingency planning for natural disasters, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper told AFP in an interview ahead of the tournament.
If a match has to be abandoned during the group stages for whatever reason, it is awarded as a 0-0 draw, which could have an impact on what is expected to be a very tight competition.
There are some spare days put aside for knock-out matches if extreme weather hits.