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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019
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Hello, how are ye keeping?

I know, I know. 

‘Tis tough.

But sure lookit, we’ll keep goin’, see if any of the four teams in action today want to join our World Cup pity party.

This morning’s first match up is Wales v France, a contest that could prove to be a clash of styles if Les Bleus offer up the same joie de vivre they delivered in the first half of their opening pool match.

For Warren Gatland, it’s a chance to extend his tenure as head coach in Wales by two games and claim a second World Cup semi-final in eight years for our celtic cousins. 

France give the impression that they don’t really mind how this World Cup ends for them, their focus is trained on hosting in 2023, but that just might suit that enigmatic gallic temperament.

Kick off is on RTE, eir Sport and ITV at 8.15. But if you can’t get to a TV, we’ll talk you through the whole lot.

wales-v-fiji-pool-d-2019-rugby-world-cup-oita-stadium A knee injury means Wales will be without their talismanic centre. Source: David Davies

Here are your teams for today’s outing in Oita and there is a late change for Wales.

A massive blow really as their brilliant centre Jonathan Davies has not been passed fit, so Owen Watkin takes his place at 13.

The knock-on from that injury is good news for Leigh Halfpenny, who gets a spot on the bench.

Wales

15. Liam Williams
14. George North
13. Owen Watkin
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Josh Adams
10. Dan Biggar
9. Gareth Davies

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Tomas Francis
4. Jake Ball 
5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
6. Aaron Wainwright 
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Josh Navidi 

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee
17. Rhys Carre
18. Dillon Lewis
19. Adam Beard
20. Ross Moriarty
21. Tomos Williams
22. Rhys Patchell
23 Leigh Halfpenny

France

15. Maxime Medard
14. Damian Penaud
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Gael Fickou
11. Yoann Huget
10 Romain Ntamack
9. Antoine Dupont

1. Jefferson Poirot
2. Guilhem Guirado (Capt)
3. Rabah Slimani
4. Bernard Le Roux
5. Sebastien Vahaamahina
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Charles Ollivon
8. Gregory Alldritt

Replacements:

16. Cyril Baille
17. Camille Chat
18. Emerick Setiano
19. Paul Gabrillagues
20. Louis Picamoles
21. Baptiste Serin
22. Camille Lopez
23. Vincent Rattez

Back to matters at hand in the quarter-finals though, the teams are out and arguably the two best anthems in sport are being played to get us right proper pumped for kick-off.

Before the anthems I felt Wales would walk this, but a combination of Davies absence and La Marseillaise has completed changed my mind.

Biggar kicks us off and there’s an immediate error as France knock on on their 22. Wales go and play on rather than take the set-piece.

A seven-phase set ends with a big high ball from Biggar, but Medard easily marks in his 22.

It’s quite a shaky start from Wales, a team you expect to be super solid and organised.

George North tackled on his own line after just beating Huget to a chip chase.

France look very dangerous as they flow forward with Fickou and Penaud making incisive carries.

6Mins

Sensational start from France. Lauret takes the line-out and Guirado is just stopped short of the line, but Les Bleus’ pack recycle and it’s the big second row, the man who literally threw away a victory into Welsh arms during the Six Nations, who powers over the whitewash.

Ntamack’s conversion attempt cracks the post.

10Mins

Absolutely sensational from the free-flowing French side we all dream of.

Vakatawa makes a half break in midfield and gets an offload away to put Ntamack in the clear. He passes before the hit and Dupont carries on at full pace. The scrum-half is absolutely cemented by Liam Williams but it’s too late for Wales, the pass is gone to Ollivon whose head-start is enough to run 25 metres under the posts.

Magnificent stuff.

13Mins

After yesterday, we needed a pick-me-up and this is some Test match.

A turnover puts the ball on a plate for Wainwright to pick and snipe with no French pillar. The blindside utterly torches his opposite number and leaves Vahaamahina running in quicksand while he canters in under the posts.

14Mins

Here’s the Ollivon try, a gem.

19Mins

Vahaamahina has been a disaster since his opening try.

A high tackle called on the big lock now and Biggar can pull Wales within two with an easy kick from the 22.

20Mins

PENALTY! Wales 10 France 12 (Biggar ’20)

24Mins

Penaud takes a nice high ball and ignites another stirring French flowing attack.

The wing feeds Fickou to carry up to Wales’ 22 and they’re set now for the big blue forwards to rumble…. until Poirot is pinged for a neck roll at the ruck.

27Mins

Wales starting to find their feet in attack now, Tipuric gets a nice break off a tip-on and Owen Watkin, with big shoes to fill, bats the ball on with a table tennis swing when it looked like he would be creamed in a tackle.

The move ends with a knock-on two phases later from Wainwright.

And there is a second injury blow for Wales now as Josh Navidi heads ashore. Ross Moriarty repaces the Blues workhorse.

28Mins

And Moriarty’s first act is under scrutiny from the officials. Looked like a very high tackle on Fickou after he broke onto an offload.

29Mins

YELLOW CARD: Peyper didn’t really consider a red, but Moriarty thought that’s what was coming when he misheard the ref.

It was another promising break from France as Huget’s offload was left hanging for Fickou to power onto.

31Mins

Another beaut from Les Bleus, Penaud punctures the line and offloads out for Vakatawa, who steps Liam Williams on his way over the line.

Ntamack, who slipped Penaud into the gap, adds the conversion.

Wales 10 France 19

34Mins

Wales are rocked here. Medard gets a slice of luck with a chip ahead that is deflected and falls kindly.

He runs down the left and kicks again to force Biggar into running the ball dead deep in his 22.

34Mins

France are having serious craic playing rugby out there. 

Ntamack is caught in possession as they look wide against 14 men, he offloads and there is another offload forced with Wales’ defence advancing. 

Penaud actually tries to volley the ball five metres from the try-line. It doesn’t come off and Wales do very, very well to keep their defensive intensity up. First denying Fickou on a burst for the corner and then their line-speed forces France backwards with Vahaamahina caught in possession.

37Mins

The offside penalty comes, but Ntamack again manages to hit the post with his kick off the tee.

Having made big inroads from the line-out already in this game, that’s a big missed opportunity.

42Mins

Jakers. Ken Owens for a second looks like he’s pulled a Vahaamahina with a big looping pass across his line. Penaud intercepts and Guirado dots the ball down behind the try-line, but Peyper’s whistle is gone. He had signalled advantage for a Wales scrum.

Mad game. Great stuff.

The second half begins with team news. Camille Lopez is on in place of Romain Ntamack.

The change is down to injury, but it might benefit France as Lopez’ greater game management experience could leave them better equipped to work with this lead.

43Mins

France’s forward pack have started well and Lopez looks to make an instant mark with an attempt at a drop-goal.

It’s a decent strike, but it trailed wide off the posts.

44Mins

Very different pace to the contest now in the second half. France don’t need to push the tempo.

Lopez takes a high ball and turns out of trouble.

Dupont kicks in behind Williams and the fullback looks set to gather, but it slips out of his hands and into touch.

Flag 47Mins

France look set to turn the screw, but the penalty comes against Vahaamahina for a high tackle.

Wales clear their lines, but the replay comes on the big screen and the TMO spells it out for Peyper. ‘I’m going to show you a red card to the face’.

The lock had his arm around the neck, removed it and planted his elbow in Wainwright’s jaw.

RED CARD! Vahaamahina 

51Mins

With only seven forwards, Brunel seems to have decided he needs fresh legs sooner rather than later. Chat comes in for Guirado at hooker.

Can Wales make the advantage count in the final half hour? We expected their fitness to ensure they would finish strong 15-on-15. 

54Mins

PENALTY! Wales 13 France 19 (Biggar ’54)

56Mins

We’ve got a one-score game now, folks. 

Who would back against Wales getting the seven-pointer they need to take over the lead now? Can France get the shovel out for a big dig to keep their nose above water?

Poirot certainly looks willing to keep chipping away, the prop forces a penalty on his 10 and France get an valuable foothold in Welsh territory.

58Mins

France threatening some wide shapes, but keep cutting back to run in narrow channels.

They do look threatening as momentum builds and after plugging the middle, they look wide. 

10 phases up now and that vaunted Welsh defence is being tested…

58Mins

Vakatawa makes a break on the right and tries to get a back-hand offload away to Penaud, but Adams gets a hand in Penaud’s field of vision and brings the knock-on.

Red scrum, in their own left corner.

60Mins

Medard follows up a poor drop-goal attempt with a very smart kick for touch after Wales clear from the 22.

The fullback’s experience will be vital for France here.

62Mins

Penaud coughs up a cheap knock on in midfield after Wales cleared again. And it leads to a breakdown penalty on the right side of halfway.

Biggar drills the ball to the 22 and as fresh legs come into that red pack, Wales you sense, will crank up the pressure right now.

Flag 65Mins

Tomos Williams is the man providing the spark for Wales, the scrum-half jinks his way into the 22. 

Wales look to use the space going right. Huget knows it’s do or die, he bites in and North tries to spin a pass beyond him where two red shirts are begging to score.

But Huget’s intervention proves to be a superb one. He catches North’s pass and the pair wrestle for possession before a penalty goes France’s way.

67Mins

Lopez sits very deep behind his hard-carrying forwards but it’s not a DG attempt this time, it’s a big high-hanging Garryowen.

It bounces between Penaud and Williams and France get away with shoving in the back before a blue scrum is called by Peyper.

74Mins

Wales pushing and pushing now. In the French 22, but Lewis knocks on.

The energy is being sapped and sapped from Wales as the clock ticks down.

75Mins

You want energy, Williams is the man to mine it.

France’s scrum is disrupted, the ball spins up from Williams’ efforts to steal the ball. Tipuric carries and Moriarty makes the decisive carry onto the line.

There’s a long TMO review to see if the ball goes forward from Williams’ tenacious effort, but it’s called good.

Biggar steps up and taps over the extra conversion too and Wales are right where they need to be.

Wales 20 France 19

78Mins

Maxine Medard is brought ashore. He’s been excellent in this campaign, but it’s the last of him we’ll see at a World Cup.

Wales force a scrum penalty and they can see out the next two minutes with minimal fuss as empty seats appear around the stadium – likely Japanese fans who are departing to watch their own side in action.

They’ve done it. Wales have forced their way to the World Cup semi-finals for a third time.

Eight years on from Sam Warburton’s red card in semi-final loss to France, they have come out the right side of this quarter and Warren Gatland can now celebrate while waiting to see whether Japan or South Africa join them in the final four.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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