TOYOTA CITY, 10 Oct - Italy coach Conor O'Shea says the cancellation of the team's match against New Zealand is a tough break for his players.
The Azzuri will end the Rugby World Cup 2019 having played only three of their four group matches - and miss their chance for redemption against the reigning champions.
Italy's match against New Zealand was cancelled on Thursday because forecasts say that Typhoon Hagibis will hit the Tokyo area on Saturday.
They needed either a win, while denying the defending champions any bonus points; or a win with a points difference of 58 points if both teams claimed a bonus point, in order to reach the knockouts.
Italy have not beaten the All Blacks in 14 attempts, but O'Shea could not hide his frustration that mother nature had denied them even the chance to try.
"I'm finding it really difficult and I saw the players reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field," said O'Shea, pictured above.
"For the World Cup not to finish in front of the fans on the pitch, in front of the fans watching on TV in Italy, it is a hard day for all of us and difficult to put into words.
"I feel bad for Sergio (Parisse, the Italy captain) and the whole squad not to have the possibility to finish their World Cup on the pitch in front of the fans, and then together in the changing room.
"To have to accept it won't be the case is really, really hard to take."
🚨 #RWC2019 BREAKING 🚨— SuperSport 🏉🏆 (@SuperSportTV) October 10, 2019
World Rugby have confirmed that the matches between New Zealand and Italy and England and France have been cancelled due to the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis. Two points will be awarded to each team.pic.twitter.com/mSidvwoF2p
Italy's players were looking forward to the chance to right some wrongs from the 49-3 defeat to South Africa that left their quarter-final hopes hanging by a thread.
Their performance was overshadowed by Andrea Lovotti's sending off two minutes into the second-half that left Italy down to 14 men, a numerical superiority the Springboks exploited to the full.
It means that loss will be their final memory of a tournament that began well with bonus-point victories over Namibia and Canada.
The cancellation also meant that Italy captain Sergio Parisse, and fellow veterans Alessandro Zanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini, were unable to make one last appearance on the sport's greatest stage.
"For us, it was our next challenge and perhaps for the last time for Sergio, Ale and Leo to play, and the chance to give young players a chance," O'Shea said.
"I'm sure it was a hard decision for World Rugby. All the other teams whose matches have been cancelled are already through and we were the only ones who had a chance to qualify.
"You never know what can happen on the pitch - like we found out against South Africa.
"We had a long time preparing for this, there was good energy and good spirit in the squad. I feel privileged to have worked with them.
"We had the chance to qualify. I'm not saying we would have beaten them, but you want to finish on the pitch."