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Rugby World Cup 2011 Semi-final Preview – Wales vs. France.

The first Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday night New Zealand time sees the northern hemisphere challenge as Wales take on France.

France come into the match with mixed form. In round robin play, they went down convincingly to the All Blacks; and also, in the tournament’s biggest shock, lost to Tonga.

Senior players gave media quotes about their unease with the selections and substitutions; the coach Marc Lievremont was fiercely at odds with several journalists; the entire group seemed in a hurry to get in a plane and head for home. However, a match against traditional foes England seemed to focus their minds. They were impressive in their quarter-final, especially in the first half where they took a 16-0 lead, and eventually closed out the match 19-12.

Wales, on the other hand, have been near the success story of this tournament. They lost their opener to South Africa by a single point, in a match where they played impressively and had several chances to win; since then, they have not lost a match, showed great form in defeating Samoa, Namibia and Fiji, and in their quarter final rolled the equally in-form Irish team in a tremendous battle.

The Welsh success so far has been based on several ingredients in a well-balanced team. Jamie Roberts and Toby Faletau are the team’s power runners, running onto some lovely flat passes, getting the ball into their hands just as they hit the defensive line, and making tremendous yards. The rest of the Welsh backline contains a good mixture of elusive and powerful runners; their forwards have matched every pack they have come across; and their loose forward trio are one of the best balanced combinations in the competition, with opensider Sam Warburton a genuine ball scavenger.

Halves Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland have directed play superbly, with Priestland’s kicking out of hand, in particular, exceptional. However, Priestland has been ruled out of this match through injury; Wales have plenty of classy and experienced cover in James Hook and Stephen Jones (who will start on the bench), but no doubt Priestland will be missed.

France’s success against England was based on some great fifteen-man rugby, forwards and backs combining well in smooth running movements to slice apart the defence. It is something the French do better than anyone, and on their day can be impossible to stop. There are, however, two French weaknesses that the Welsh will be hoping to play on; first, the mental strength of this French side is still in question after their pool play. Even as England were coming back to within seven points, there was plenty of angst amongst the French substitutes. Second, with newly converted scrumhalf Morgan Parra at fly-half in this tournament, the French defence in his channel has been sliced open with frightening regularity, most ruthlessly by the All Blacks; expect to see Wales sending their big men down the same path.

This is a match that most of all depends on which French team comes out to play. Wales, one feels, might have the stronger desire; if so, they will be celebrating their first ever appearance in a World Cup final come the end of Saturday night.

Kick off: 9pm NZ time / 9am GMT / 9am British Summer Time.

Starting Line-Ups – Wales vs France, Rugby World Cup 2011

Wales Starting XV

  • 15 Leigh Halfpenny
  • 14 George North
  • 13 Jonathan Davies
  • 12 Jamie Roberts
  • 11 Shane Williams
  • 10 James Hook
  • 9 Mike Phillips
  • 1 Gethin Jenkins
  • 2 Huw Bennett
  • 3 Adam Jones
  • 4 Luke Charteris
  • 5 Alun Wyn Jones
  • 6 Dan Lydiate
  • 7 Sam Warburton
  • 8 Toby Faletau


  • 16 Lloyd Burns
  • 17 Paul James
  • 18 Bradley Davies
  • 19 Ryan Jones
  • 20 Lloyd Williams
  • 21 Stephen Jones
  • 22 Scott Williams


France Starting XV

  • 15 Maxime Médard
  • 14 Vincent Clerc
  • 13 Aurélien Rougerie
  • 12 Maxime Mermoz
  • 11 Alexis Palisson
  • 10 Morgan Parra
  • 9 Dimitri Yachvili
  • 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux
  • 2 William Servat
  • 3 Nicolas Mas
  • 4 Pascal Papé
  • 5 Lionel Nallet
  • 6 Thierry Dusautoir (capt.)
  • 7 Julien Bonnaire
  • 8 Imanol Harinordoquy


  • 16 Dimitri Szarzewski
  • 17 Fabien Barcella
  • 18 Julien Pierre
  • 19 Louis Picamoles
  • 20 Francois Trinh-Duc
  • 21 David Marty
  • 22 Cédric Heymans


Match Officials

Referee: Alain Rolland (IRE)

Touch Judge: Jonathan Kaplan (RSA)

Touch Judge: Wayne Barnes (ENG)

TV match official: Giulio De Santis (ITA)

About Michael Gardner

Michael Gardner
Michael Gardner is at the Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand, providing first-hand coverage of the action on the pitch.

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