England’s journey from Tokyo airport to their hotel in the Japanese capital took almost as long as the 11-hour flight from Heathrow airport because of the devastation caused by Typhoon Faxai, which on Monday claimed at least three lives.
Eddie Jones, the England head coach, yesterday vowed that his squad would have to be “comfortable being uncomfortable” if they were to win the World Cup in Japan but even he could not have expected such an immediate challenge to that mantra.
On landing in Narita Airport yesterday, England were stranded for six hours in the aftermath of one of the strongest typhoons to have made landfall in Tokyo for decades, with winds of over 110 mph battering the city.
England had been reassured that their flight would not be impacted despite Australia’s decision to delay their flight because of the weather warning but, despite landing under clear blue skies and balmy conditions, their hopes of a smooth transit were dashed by the ensuing travel chaos.
The England squad decided to play an impromptu cricket match at the airport as they waited for almost six hours before taking their transit to their Tokyo hotel, before they fly on to the coastal resort of Miyazaki on Tuesday.
The problems started when the 31-man squad were kept on board their flight for an hour after landing because of a lack of buses to take them to the terminal.
England were then informed that the two coaches that had been booked to take the players and management team into the city had not been able to reach the airport because of traffic congestion, with many roads gridlocked in the wake of the typhoon while all trains had been suspended.
The transport eventually arrived at 8pm, over six hours after the squad had landed, before they faced a two-and-a-half hour journey to their hotel in Shiodome, some 40 miles from the airport.
Jones had already prepared his players for travel disruptions as part of his World Cup preparations, including deliberately making the squad arrive later than their usual arrival time ahead of their warm-up match against Ireland last month.
While there appeared to be more posters promoting the 2020 Olympics in Japan than the World Cup, England will at least be greeted by a welcome banner at Miyazaki Airport when they land and there is great excitement in the coastal resort about their arrival.
“This is a unique World Cup. It’s the first time in a tier-two nation so our ability to adapt quickly will be imperative,” said Jones, who coached Japan during the 2015 World Cup.
“Every one of the 20 teams goes into the World Cup with the target of being at their best. We think we have prepared well so we have put ourselves in a good position.
“We are excited to arrive in Japan, it is a great honour and privilege to represent England and we are looking forward to the tournament.
“We used our warm-up games effectively. We were able to experiment with selection and tactics and have developed a solid platform game. Our ability to adapt to different conditions, different teams and different referees has improved.”