Eddie Jones puts England back-up plan into action as typhoon hits Rugby World Cup campaign

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Tokyo was calm on Thursday as the super typhoon began its final approach but in the England team hotel it was like a scene out of the last flight out of Saigon.

Bags and suitcases were packed in the lobby, equipment was being loaded up into a freight lorry and players were saying hurried goodbyes to their loved ones.

England were getting the hell out of the Japanese capital and headed 700 miles west to Miyazaki where Hagibis The Horrible could not reach them.

The players had been informed by Eddie Jones just before 10am at a gentle walk-through practice session that plans had changed.

The France game was off and they were off too.

World Rugby’s typhoon contingency plans may have turned out to be non-existent but Jones had one in his back pocket – a three-day tactical retreat out of harm’s way, back to the beach resort where England spent their Rugby World Cup training camp.

If the development was a frustration for Mark Wilson, who would have stood in for the injured Billy Vunipola in a reshuffled side, and Owen Farrell, who was keen to play himself back into form after a sub-standard outing against Argentina, it was anything but for England’s coach.

First place in Pool C had been confirmed without England having to lace up their boots with a weekend break ahead of the knockout stages thrown in for good measure.

“It is a great opportunity for us to regenerate, refocus, put a bit more petrol in the tank, so we’re really happy with it,” said Jones.

“The players are disappointed as you’d expect but they’ll get over it. As soon as they get some Miyazaki beef in them they’ll be all right. We’ve got a special consignment of 80kgs coming on Saturday night.

“We’ll do a bit of light training Friday, have a good hit out Saturday, have some beef Saturday night and a few beers and get ready for the week ahead.

“Who would have thought we would have two relatively easy games, one tough game and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final. So someone is smiling on us – the typhoon gods maybe?”

To listen to Jones on Thursday you might even have concluded that a typhoon about to hit a major city during a major sports event was a good thing although as he well knows from personal experience of 30 of them in Japan during his years coaching here it is not.

“I can remember driving once in Tokyo in September 1996 to the first game of the season and the sign from a 7/11 convenience store flew off and just landed in front of the car. At one stage I was looking pretty dodgy if it had kept coming,” he said.

“So there’s a reason why, when typhoons come, everything shuts down because it can be particularly dangerous. This one’s supposed to be a big typhoon, so I don’t see any other option that the organisers had.

“You can’t help typhoons. We would all like to think we’ve got the power above and beyond what’s going on the world at the moment, but we don’t and these things happen and you just ride with it.”

The Japanese have a word for this sort of philosophical shoulder shrug – Shoganai – and it is one that will be needed in spades by the unfortunate England fans who have flown 6,000 miles for a cancelled game.

While Jones spoke of his sympathy for them, he had none with the nations adversely affected by Hagibis’s impending arrival.

“We’ve been talking about it all the time, about the possibility that this was going to happen. It’s typhoon season,” said Jones.

“You go somewhere else and it’s terrorist season – you know what’s going to happen. It’s typhoon season here and you’ve got to be prepared for it. You have to accumulate points in your games in case that happened.

“We just knew that there was the possibility of a game like this during the tournament so we wanted to put ourselves in the best position we could.”

Safely out in Miyazaki, England have done exactly that.

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