All Blacks deny special treatment after typhoon row

Urayasu (Japan) (AFP) –


New Zealand have rejected accusations of preferential treatment over their cancelled final World Cup pool match, with senior lock Sam Whitelock saying "rugby is just a small thing" as Typhoon Hagidis steams towards Japan.

Italian captain Sergio Parisse was furious after the Azzurri were robbed of their last chance of making the quarter-finals when the match was called off, claiming it would have been played if the All Blacks had needed to win.

The cancellation of Pool B's All Blacks-Italy match, as well as England v France, both scheduled for Saturday, was taken for safety reasons as Hagibis, packing winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour (155 mph), takes aim at Tokyo and Yokohama.

The critical Scotland v Japan clash to determine the outcome of Pool A is also under threat.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said for the Italy match to have gone ahead "we would have rather played Friday, but it wasn't our choice, it was out of our control".

World Rugby has denied favouritism, saying it "extensively explored all options" to ensure "a consistent, fair and equitable outcome for all teams".

Parisse labelled the unprecedented World Cup cancellations as "ridiculous". The matches go down as scoreless draws, eliminating the Italians and leaving them furious.

Italy needed to beat New Zealand for the first time, and with a bonus point, to qualify from Pool B and while that was highly unlikely, Parisse argued they at least deserved a shot.

"If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled," he fumed.

Whitelock claimed the All Blacks wanted to play but "we don't make those decisions -? it's come from higher up. Maybe ask those guys".

The long-serving Canterbury Crusaders lock has experienced the cancellation of Super Rugby matches because of tragic events -- the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, in which 185 people died and the mosque shootings early this year which claimed 51 lives.

"I've had a couple of Super Rugby games cancelled, with the earthquake and the shooting, and both those games you understand why. Rugby is just a small thing," he said.

"Sometimes the right thing is not playing. There would be nothing worse than if we did play and people were getting hurt. That's the right thing.

"We've listened to advice from above and we can't change it, so we just have to play the cards that have been dealt to us."