England coach Steve Borthwick expressed his concern for the safety of millions it the firing line of Typhoon Hagibis including friends and family, with the largest tropical cyclone in 60 years bearing down on the Japanese capital.
Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area is on an emergency lockdown, with winds of up to 120mph battering the south-east region of Japan and worse to come on Saturday night.
At least one person has been killed in the ‘super typhoon’ following a tornado outside of Tokyo, and more than 12,000 homes are already without power.
Borthwick spent three years living in Japan while working as Eddie Jones’s assistant with the Brave Blossoms, and has experienced plenty of typhoons himself to fully understand what is occurring 700 miles away from England’s makeshift training camp in Miyazaki, having fled the area as soon as their Saturday match against France was called off last Thursday.
“First and foremost you want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Borthwick. “Hopefully this storm passes and everyone is safe and there's minimal damage. I think Japan is a country that’s really well prepared for different types of natural weather incidents and situations like earthquakes, and when you come and live here there’s an education as soon as you get here.
“From a perspective of myself and my family, we felt really well supported through that and always felt prepared through what might happen. I’ve actually been here in Miyazaki when one hit and everyone gets on with it, they take the necessary safety precautions and then get going again as soon as they can afterwards.
“I think here in Japan, they’re very resilient people and they’re prepared for different types of incident. They’ve had to go through a lot from some of the earthquakes, but that is one of the things that struck me when I moved here, straight away you get an education wherever you are.
“People tell you where there are friends and ex-pats here that will talk to you for different services for what you need, like having everything in the cupboard for what you needed if there is an earthquake so that you’ve always got that. My little boy was always taught at pre-school if he heard the earthquake alarms what to do and he’d straight away climb under the table. People would practice whatever and it’s a country that’s really prepared for things.”
While England were able to get straight out of the capital to flee the clutches of Hagibis, many friends, family and fans have not been so lucky. World Rugby have provided information on how to best prepare for the natural disaster and the appropriate news services to follow for latest safety updates.
For England hooker Jamie George, he was relieved to see his parents leave Tokyo on Thursday to head for safety, while his girlfriend has joined other partners and wives of the squad to leave the capital, but the forward still harbours concerns for the safety of those left there and facing the worst.
“I know people who have flown here just for the weekend,” said George, referencing to the risk of them not seeing any rugby at all despite spending thousands to come to Japan. “We’re obviously gutted for those guys, trust me we’d much rather be playing as well but I think as difficult as it is it’s a very difficult circumstance, isn’t it?
“You’ve have to with the magnitude of the typhoon that’s coming take that into account as well. It’s hugely disappointing for those guys, but it’s just the way it is unfortunately.
“My parents actually left on Thursday when we found out there wasn’t going to be a game, they’ve flown back to be with my brother who lives in Bangkok, and then my girlfriend headed out of Tokyo with a few of the other girls. They’re a bit out of Tokyo so we don’t have anyone there at the minute, but I’ve got a couple of mates there who are trying to wait it all out.”
With their game against France on Saturday cancelled, the England squad were put through their paces in a physical training session in front of the Miyazaki public, though Billy Vunipola and Jack Nowell did not train with the rest of the 31-man party as they continue their rehabilitation from injury.