Game would have gone ahead ‘if New Zealand needed the points’

Ofa Tuungafasi and Beauden Barrett arrive for a New Zealand training session at the Arcs Urayasu Park on October 08, 2019 in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan.
Ofa Tuungafasi and Beauden Barrett arrive for a New Zealand training session at the Arcs Urayasu Park on October 08, 2019 in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan.
Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Tokyo - Italy captain Sergio Parisse has slammed the decision to cancel his side’s World Cup match against New Zealand because of Super Typhoon Hagibis, saying the game would have gone ahead if the All Blacks needed a win.

The number eight also said it was “ridiculous” for organisers not to have an alternative to cancellation as “it isn’t news that typhoons hit Japan“.

In an unprecedented move at a Rugby World Cup, organisers scrapped Saturday’s matches between England and France, and New Zealand and Italy — with both fixtures in the path of the powerful typhoon.

While England and France both advance to the quarter-finals regardless, with two points each from a Pool C match now deemed a draw, Thursday’s announcement ended Italy’s slim hopes of reaching the last eight.

Admittedly, this would have required Italy to beat three-time world champions New Zealand for the first time — and with a bonus point.

“It is difficult to know that we won’t have the chance to play a match against one of the great teams,” Parisse told reporters in Toyota City on Thursday.

“If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled,” he added in comments published on the official Rugby World Cup news service but later removed.

With a match meant to be played at the City of Toyota Stadium officially declared a scoreless draw as a result of the cancellation, the points Italy received left them third in Pool B on 12 points behind South Africa on 15, with reigning world champions New Zealand topping the group on 16.

The All Blacks will now face the runner-up of a tightly-contested Pool A in the quarterfinals.

While few expected Italy to cause a huge upset this weekend, the 36-year-old Parisse, whose 142 Test appearances are second only to retired New Zealand great Richie McCaw in the all-time list, was disappointed not to be facing the All Blacks for what could be the final time in his long career.

“We had the chance to play in a big stadium, against a great team,” Parisse said.  “It is ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made because it isn’t like the fans arrived yesterday.

“It is ridiculous that there was no Plan B, because it isn’t news that typhoons hit Japan. The alternative is Plan B. When you organise a World Cup you should have one in place.”

Parisse even suggested there was an element of disrespect in the decision, even though Italy have lost every one of their previous 15 Tests against New Zealand.

“Sure, everyone might think that Italy versus New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we’d have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team,” he added.

“If Italy and New Zealand decide they don’t want to play, then fine. But as I said before, if New Zealand needed the points it wouldn’t have been cancelled.” Meanwhile Italy coach Conor O’Shea lamented a “horrible” finish to the World Cup.

“I saw the players’ reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field,” he said.

“I feel bad for Sergio and the whole squad.”

But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said cancellation was a “no-brainer“, insisting when you “get a typhoon to the level we’re getting then safety is the paramount thing“.