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Rugby World Cup

Wales Limp into Semis with French Win

Wales will play the winner of the final quarter-final between South Africa and Japan in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup after seeing off France

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Wales have limped into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in Japan with a 20-19 victory over France in what was a poor performance this morning. 

The Welsh needed a try in the final minutes of the game to win against the 14-men of France as Warren Gatland’s men just about made it to the final four of the competition. 

It was the French that got off to a flying start as they looked to cause an upset. Using the ball in open play and putting Wales under pressure deep in their own half. 

That pressure paid off after six minutes when from a line-out they drove toward the Welsh line and within a couple of phases they were over the line as lock Sebastien Vahaamahina barged over from close range. Youngster Romain Ntamack hit the post with the conversion leaving it at 5-0. 

Two minutes later and things got even better for Les Bleus as Virimi Vakatawa showed great vision to break through a gap in his own half before passing to Ntamack who drew in defenders before he sent it to Antoine Dupont, who in turn popped it to Charles Ollivon race over for the second try in as many minutes. Ntamack made no mistake with the kick this time around.

The frantic start continued, with Wales’ Aaron Wainwright taking full advantage of loose ball in the middle of the pitch, picking it up and showing brilliant pace to dart to the try-line and score. Dan Biggar provided the extras as Wales got back into the game. 

Biggar reduced the deficit even further on the 20 minute mark as he slotted over a penalty to make it 12-10 to the French with a quarter of the match gone. 

However, in the space of five minutes Wales’ good work was undone as Josh Navidi went off injured, being replaced by Ross Moriarty. Moriarty was barely on the pitch and he was off again as he was shown a yellow-card for a high-tackle on Gael Fickou. 

Within two minutes of going down to 14-men and Wales conceded a third try as the French showed great hands, spreading the ball across the back-line, with Damian Penaud sending a beautiful offload in a tackle to Vakatawa who barrelled over. Ntamack pushed France further ahead at 19-10. 

France continued to search for more points over the remaining ten minutes of the half but Wales managed to hold out as it stayed 19-10 in favour of Les Bleus come the half-time whistle. 

The men in blue started the second-half brightly, but things began to change nearly ten minutes in as Vahaamahina was sent off for a reckless elbow into the face of Wainwright, while France were in a position to score another try. 

Minutes later and Biggar cut further into the lead with another penalty to make it 19-13. 

Despite France having only 14-men they looked the more likely to score as Wales failed to show any signs of pushing for a winning score. 

However, with only six minutes left Wales struck the vital blow as replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams ripping the ball out of French hands just in front of the French try-line. Justin Tupuric caught the ball and looked as though he may have gone over himself but was just held short, but Moriarty was on hand to dive over the line to touch the ball down. Biggar slotted over the extras to give Wales the lead for the first time in the match. 

Wales held out to secure a narrow victory at 20-19. 

Next up for Wales is a semi-final against either South Africa or Japan, but they will need a massive improvement if they are to reach their first ever World Cup final.

Wales Player Ratings

Starting XV:

Liam Williams (6), George North (5), Owen Watkin (6), Hadleigh Parkes (6), Josh Adams (5), Dan Biggar (6), Gareth Davies (6); Wyn Jones (6), Ken Owens (6), Tomas Francis (6), Jake Ball (7), Alun Wyn Jones (6), Aaron Wainwright (8), Justin Tipuric (7), Josh Navidi (6)

Replacements (7)

Rugby

Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

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International

Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph

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(Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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International

Scots End Row with World Rugby

Scotland and World Rugby have been unhappy with one another for the guts of a month, but they have finally sorted their differences out

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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

World Rugby have confirmed this morning that the Scottish Rugby Union has accepted the punishment received for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last month.

The punishment of a £70,000 fine and a meaningful apology was handed to the union following comments made by their chief Mark Dodson, who suggested sueing World Rugby as his team’s clash with Japan came under threat by Typhoon Hagibis. 

In what was a must-win game for the Scots to progress to the knock-out stages, he also criticised the running of the competition by the hosts. Eventually the match was played and Scotland lost 28-21, leaving them heading home, but World Rugby were not happy. 

Having announced the punishment last week, World Rugby have now released a statement to confirm that Scotland have accepted the decision. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter. The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party,” the statement read. 

It puts and end to a dragged out argument between the organisations which will be a relief to fans. The fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, which is continuing to help the areas affected by the typhoon last month. 

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