Mako Vunipola is “hoping and praying” that family and friends in Japan to support him are safe after Typhoon Hagibis ripped into Tokyo.
Vunipola was flown 700 miles to safety with the rest of the England squad after their final pool game against France was called off on Thursday.
That meant him and brother Billy leaving family behind in a city which went into lockdown shortly before the worst tropical cyclone to hit Japan in 60 years blew in and claimed its first life.
“My Dad has just arrived and my aunties and cousins also came,” said the England prop, whose chance to start a Test for the first time since February went with the loss of yesterday’s game.
“We are talking to them as much as we can and it is a case of them doing as they are told and just hoping and praying they are safe.
“We are very lucky to be down here but it has also been probably the hardest thing to deal with; realising that the game wouldn’t be on and trying to make plans for them.”
Hagibis is 870 miles in diameter, combining destructive wind speeds and torrential rain. Four lives were lost overnight, with 17 people reported missing.
Nearly 300,000 are without power and today’s Canada-Namibia game in Kamaishi became the third to be cancelled after landslides and flooding hit access roads near to the stadium.
England meanwhile staged an open session in the sunshine of Miyazaki, in front of a couple of hundred fans including two with a Wales flag.
It seemed a world away from the natural horror unfolding further north and it was only after coming off the training field that Vunipola learned the extent of the crisis.
“We’re focused on rugby but it’s not the be all and end all when you see what is happening,” he said. “You worry for people’s safety in typhoons and pray that nothing serious does happen.
“Unfortunately there’s already been someone die so as much as we want it all to be about the rugby, for now it’s about safety.”
Team mate Jamie George agreed as he told of friends that had flown to Japan just for this weekend to take in a match which is lost forever.
“We’re obviously gutted for those guys, trust me we’d much rather be playing as well,” said the hooker. “It’s just a very difficult circumstance given the magnitude of this typhoon.”
The cancellation of England-France means that, barring Wales losing to Uruguay today, Vunipola and pals will take on Australia in the quarter-finals in Oita this coming Saturday.
Jack Nowell and Billy Vunipola did not train fully and are doubts for England’s first World Cup knockout match for eight years.
Australia boss Michael Cheika has already started the war of words with his old mate Eddie Jones. “I saw he was saying that the typhoon gods were smiling on them so I suppose they better win,” he chirped.
“They’ve had the best preparation according to the coach so they better go out there and win.”