16 Oct 2011

France beats 14-man Wales to get to World Cup final

9:23 am on 16 October 2011

Wales fell agonisingly short of reaching their first Rugby World Cup final on Saturday after playing three-quarters of their semi-final against France without captain Sam Warburton, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle.

The Welsh side scored the only try of the match but were edged 9-8 by France who had been forced to make more than twice the number of tackles as their opponents.

Captain Sam Warburton received a red card for a dangerous tackle on France winger Vincent Clerc in the 18th minute.

A brawl broke out after Warburton lifted the Frenchman off his feet and dropped him to the ground.

Irish referee Alain Rolland's decision to red card Warburton dismayed many on the crowd, who booed and whistled throughout the remainder of the match.

Wales coach Warren Gatland said a yellow card would have been an appropriate punishment. "I thought that decision ruined the semi-final," he said.

It was only the second time a player has been sent off in the knockout stage of the Rugby World Cup. Welsh lock Huw Richards was sent off for fighting in the semi-final of the 1987 tournament against New Zealand.

France went ahead when first five eighth Morgan Parra kicked the first of his three penalties, but failed to exploit the advantage of an extra man as Wales clung on grimly.

Wales score only try

Wales, trailing 6-3 at half time, regrouped after the interval, surging into French territory in a series of attacks.

They were rewarded when half back Mike Phillips strode around the blindside, dummied, fended off an attempted tackle and dived over the line.

Stephen Jones, who had come on at first five eighth in place of James Hook, missed the conversion which would given Wales victory.

Although Wales won the plaudits, it is France that goes through to their third final after losing two pool matches.

French coach Marc Lievremont Lievremont agreed that the dismissal of the Welsh captain had been a pity as it harmed the spectacle, but said the referee had no choice. "It was a dangerous tackle and deserved a red card," he said.

Referees have been directed to show a red card for play they consider dangerous. The rules define a dangerous tackle as "lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player whilst that player's feet are still off the ground".

Acknowledging the Welsh performance which pushed France all the way, Lievremont said the Welsh team had been "extraordinarily brave but the French have a good guardian angel."

France will play either the All Blacks or the Wallabies in the final while Wales will contest a third place playoff next Friday.


France: Penalties: Morgan Parra (3).

Wales: Tries: Mike Phillips. Penalties: James Hook.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).