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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)

International

Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings

Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ireland have leapfrogged Wales in the latest World Rugby Rankings of the the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth. 

It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023. 

World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one. 

A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan. 

While Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji are in the third bracket, with the remainder of the teams to be decided through different qualifiers over the next three years. 

Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th. 

Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw. 

It is certainly heating up between the Six Nations teams as they try to be the best-placed behind South Africa and New Zealand, who take the first and second spots, but won’t play until the summer.

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Rugby World Cup

World Rugby Confirm Timing of 2023 RWC Draw

World Rugby have confirmed when they will be hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw and it has put pressure on teams to get positive results this year

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

World Rugby has announced that it will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The tournament will take place in France with the draw being held in Paris following the November internationals. 

That means that teams only have between now and then to better their current rankings and move into a different drawing band, whereas for the previous draw they had 18 months to improve. 

Speaking on the announcement World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont is excited to discover the fate of the teams and has put the pressure on teams to do well this year. 

“The pool draw is an important milestone on the road to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France as it really drives excitement and momentum both in the host nation and throughout the global rugby family – it is the moment teams and fans can start to plan. With the World Rugby rankings determining the bands for the RWC 2023 pool draw, it promises to be a fascinating year of men’s international rugby with every match counting towards seeding at the end of the November Test series,” he said. 

Twelve of the 20 participating teams from last year’s World Cup in Japan have automatically qualified, with the other eight to be decided in the qualifiers that will begin later this year. 

However, the twelve teams that are already involved will have to be at their best to move up a band in the current rankings or fear dropping down in which case they could get a harder draw. 

As of this moment the first band contains the World Cup semi-finalists from last year in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Wales, with the remaining quarter-finalists making up band two in Ireland, Australia, Japan and France. 

While in band three Scotland and Argentina are joined by Italy and Fiji. 

It will be a tough task for teams to improve their current standings with the Six Nations teams only having one edition of the tournament to improve compared to the two editions they had last time around, but it does add some extra competition to this year’s fixtures.

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International

Fans Player of the Decade Confirmed

World Rugby have announced the winner of their Fans Player of the Decade vote and there’s no surprise who’s won

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(Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has been named World Rugby’s Fans Player of the Decade following their polls over the past couple of weeks.

The organisation narrowed the competition down to 16 players, as they split them into a last-16 style format, with backs on one side and forwards on the other. With two players going head-to-head in the polls to make it through to each respective round. 

Last week it was brought down to the final four, with all of them being New Zealand internationals as Carter was pitted up against Beauden Barrett, with Richie McCaw facing Kieran Read. 

McCaw and Carter were victorious and now Carter has come out as the overall winner as the best player over the past 10-years. 

It is not hard to see why fans have gone for the 112-cap All Black, who finished up his international career in 2015, having guided his country to historic back-to-back Rugby World Cup crowns. 

As well as that he holds the title for the most points scored at test-level rugby with an incredible 1598 to his name. 

On the international stage he was impressive, but he has been equally so at club-level, winning domestic crowns in both France with Racing 92 and in Japan with the Kobelco Steelers. 

The 37-year-old is still under contract with the Japanese outfit, but has been unable to play for them for the majority of the year, having suffered a major injury, which also prevented him from a brief return to Racing 92 for the latter-half of last season. 

However, he is poised to return to the playing field shortly and will be hoping to guide his team to further success and will have the aid of another All Black great joining him in the form of Brodie Retallick, who is linking up with the side for the season during his year sabbatical.  

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