England coach Eddie Jones said Super Typhoon Hagibis had given his team a “great opportunity” on Thursday after their final group game was canceled for safety reasons.
Tournament organizers took the unprecedented step of scrapping Saturday’s matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy as the typhoon bears down on Japan.
It means England finish top of Pool C thanks to the two points both they and France receive for a canceled game.
England, unbeaten at this tournament, can now look forward to a quarter-final in Oita on October 19, with likely opponents to be Jones’ native Australia.
But far from being downcast at a week without a match, Jones told reporters on Thursday: “We are not concerned at all, we are excited, absolutely excited, a great opportunity.
“Who would have thought we would have two relatively easy games (against Tonga and the United States), one tough game (against Argentina) and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final?
“So someone is smiling on us – the typhoon gods maybe?”
Jones added that he expected the injured Billy Vunipola, Joe Marler and Jack Nowell all to be available next weekend.
England now plan to head to Miyazaki, where they had a pre-tournament camp, for three days’ training.
Jones, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England in Sydney, sympathized with traveling fans who had made the long journey to Tokyo for the France game.
“It is difficult for them because it was going to be a special occasion and we feel for them and we are lucky to have such great supporters.”
Asked if England now had a better chance of reaching the semi-final with a week’s break, Jones replied: “That’s the only chance we’ve got, so we’re prepared to take it.”
Meanwhile, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the cancellation of the world champions’ final group game against Italy in Toyota was a “no-brainer.”
“Everyone knew this was a possibility and we all knew what the process would be if it did occur,” he said. “When you get a typhoon to the level we’re getting, then safety is the paramount thing, so it’s a no-brainer.
“I just hope people don’t remember the World Cup for this. It’s been a marvelous tournament so far.”
It will be 28 days between the All Blacks’ opening pool win over South Africa and their quarter-final with only matches against minnows Canada and Namibia in between.
“The most important thing that happens now is how we adapt and adjust to it,” Hansen said of the shortage of quality match play.
“The players have to get their heads round the fact we’re not playing and the coaching group have to get our heads round the fact we’re not playing and adjust our preparation accordingly.”
Hansen refused to reveal the team he was due to announce Thursday to play Italy.
But he did confirm the cancelation affected lock Brodie Retallick and center Jack Goodhue, who only recently returned from injury and were in need of more game time.
The two points New Zealand have received for a match deemed a draw mean they will advance as Pool B winners ahead of South Africa.
The All Blacks now face a quarter-final against the runner-up in Pool A – a three-way battle between Japan, Ireland and Scotland.
Ireland’s final pool game against Samoa will go ahead on the southern island of Kyushu on Saturday, while the fate of the crunch match between Japan and Scotland on Sunday has yet to be decided.