Wales and France meet in the first World Cup semi final on Saturday morning after both teams earned impressive victories last weekend. The Welsh produced a tactical master class to beat Ireland 22-10, while France earned a deserved 19-12 victory over England.
Wales have been in superb form throughout the competition. Warren Gatland’s side started their campaign with a commendable performance against South Africa, but lost the lead 14 minutes from time as the southern hemisphere side won 17-16. Wales bounced back with a 17-10 victory over Samoa, while the 6 Nations side also beat Namibia 81-7 and Fiji 61-0.
Gatland’s charges saved their best performance of the tournament for last weekend when the Welsh overcame Ireland. Wales shut down the Ireland attack, relentlessly tackling at the breakdown and preventing Declan Kidney’s team from playing any quick ball. Welsh captain Sam Warburton was particularly impressive for the Welsh and will be crucial in Saturday’s encounter.
France, conversely, had a mediocre group stage. Marc Lievremont’s team started with two convincing victories as they beat Japan 47-21 and Canada 46-19. The French then endured a heavy 37-17 loss to New Zealand before surprisingly losing 19-14 to Tonga.
As they have done in previous tournaments, however, the erratic France team proved they have at least one good match in them as they beat England 19-12. First half tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard gave France a commanding 16-0 half-time lead. England improved after the break but would have lost by a bigger margin if it had not been for a 77th minute Danny Cueto try.
The countries have played each other 88 times in total with Wales winning 43 and France emerging victorious 42 times. The sides have only drawn against each other three times. This Saturday’s match will be the first World Cup encounter between the two nations.
France won the latest match between the teams back in March 28-9 after two tries from Lionel Nallet and one from Vincent Clerc.
James Hook will replace out-half Rhys Priestland for Wales, while Marc Lievremont has named an unchanged team for Saturday’s match. Priestland was forced off with three minutes left against Ireland, but Gatland is hopeful the out-half will be fit for a World Cup final or 3rd/4th place playoff.
Wales: 1. Gethin Jenkins, 2. Huw Bennett, 3. Adam Jones, 4. Luke Charteris, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Dan Lydiate, 7. Sam Warburton (capt), 8. Toby Faletau, 9. Mike Phillips, 10. James Hook, 11. Shane Williams, 12. Jamie Roberts, 13. Jonathan Davies, 14. George North, 15. Leigh Halfpenny.
Reserves: 16. Lloyd Burns, 17. Paul James, 18. Bradley Davies, 19. Ryan Jones, 20. Lloyd Williams, 21. Stephen Jones, 22. Scott Williams.
France: 1. Jean-Baptiste Poux, 2. William Servat, 3. Nicolas Mas, 4. Pascal Pape, 5. Lionel Nallet, 6. Thierry Dusautoir (capt), 7. Julien Bonnaire, 8. Imanol Harinordoquy, 9. Dimitri Yachvili, 10. Morgan Parra, 11. Alexis Palisson, 12. Maxime Mermoz, 13. Aurelien Rougerie, 14. Vincent Clerc, 15. Maxime Medard.
Reserves: 16. Dimitri Szarzewski, 17. Fabien Barcella, 18. Julien Pierre, 19. Louis Picamoles, 20. Francois Trinh-Duc, 21. David Marty, 22. Cedric Heymans.