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Phillips: France will be blown away in final

Updated: Saturday, 15 Oct 2011 15:56

Sam Warburton tackles Vincent Clerc - The Wales captain was red carded
Sam Warburton tackles Vincent Clerc - The Wales captain was red carded

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Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips launched a withering attack on France after his side's controversial World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

Irish official Alain Rolland showed a red card to Welsh captain Sam Warburton in the 18th minute for a tackle which lifted France winger Vincent Clerc off the ground.

Phillips said the card was not warranted, and criticised the standard of the French team.

"I thought France were really poor, and I thought it was the wrong decision by the referee to send Sam off," said Phillips, who will join leading French club Bayonne after the tournament.

"It was the wrong decision completely. He is a young kid, he is the captain of his country, it is the semi-final of the World Cup.

"He is not a dirty player. He's a big hitter and that is what happens. It was a yellow card and that's it. It was just the wrong decision.

"Put things in context. It is not fair. It looked much worse than what it was.

"It was early on in the game, it is a massive game, you are flying into each other. You put big hits in and people go up in the air - that's the way it is.

"France played up on it. It was showmanship, and they did their job. It is just disappointing.

"France were poor and they are going to get blown away in the final. It is as simple as that.

"We tried so hard to get to the final, and the French didn't do anything constructive on the pitch. All they did was look for penalties."

Wales coach Warren Gatland felt "let down" by Rolland.

Wales battled gamely in the second half - and had chances to win the game, missing 11 points' worth of kicks at goal - but Gatland felt Rolland's decision had proved crucial.

"We just feel like the destiny of the result was taken out of our hands with the red card," he said after the 9-8 defeat.

"He's lifted him, that's a yellow card, but he's not driven him into the ground. Does that mean every time there's a tackle where you lift someone off the ground it's a red card?

"Why spoil the semi-final with a red card? He's not a dirty player. I'm just gutted.

"We were down to 14 but we showed great character and I'm proud of our efforts. But we can't go to just one tournament and do well, we've got to kick on from here.

"I feel let down, I thought this team were good enough to go on and take the final but it was not to be. We just feel that ultimately the result wasn't in our control."

Warburton himself insisted there was no malicious intent in the tackle.

"I am gutted with the red card but there was nothing malicious, no malicious intent," said Warburton, who has been one of the stars of the World Cup. "I felt as soon as I hit him his bodyweight took control of what happened.

"I went to compete for the ball after, thinking it was a normal tackle and the next thing I know I was walking off into the stands.

"All the boys are gutted. The courage and bravery the boys showed was second to none."

But Clerc felt immediately that Warburton's tackle was worthy of a red card.

"I was tackled at the same time I received the ball. I felt him immediately lift me up and when I fall down on the floor I thought he was going to get at least a yellow card for this tackle," Clerc said.

"He put my feet up to my head and we have seen since the beginning of the competition, every time it has been penalised with a red card or yellow card.

"Regarding whether it is a fair sentence, I would say yes.

"I feel no anger against him. It is just something that happened during the game."

James Hook kicked an early penalty but missed two more makeable shots before being replaced by Stephen Jones.

Morgan Parra's third successful penalty put France 9-3 to the good and though Mike Phillips' superb solo try brought Wales within a point, Jones' conversion hit the post and Leigh Halfpenny's 50-metre penalty then fell just short.

Prop Gethin Jenkins said: "It was always going to be tough with the sending-off but we gave it our all right to the end. It's just disappointing.

"It changed the game a bit, we had to play a different style but fair play to the French, they held us out.

"We'll work on what went wrong, we've got a young side for the future."

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards said: "It was a travesty for the competition because clearly the team who should be playing (in the final) next Sunday night is not going to be."

Centre Jamie Roberts, who joined the scrum at times in flanker Warburton's absence, said: "To play with 14 men for so long, we can take lot of pride, it was a performance everybody back home can be proud of but it's heartbreaking.

"With 14 men you have to close the game up a bit, we went for a kick-chase game and it paid dividends really. We had a couple of opportunities to win the game and unfortunately Stephen hit the post and Leigh was half a metre short with a kick from the halfway line

"We train a lot with 14 men, we defended for our lives out there and it just wasn't to be."

The defeat denied winger Shane Williams the chance to make his international swansong in a World Cup final, and he will now have to settle for the third-place play-off.

But he said: "Any game you play for your country, you give it your all and want to play your best. We'd love to go home with a third place. Coming to the end of my career it'll probably be an emotional time.

"There's no bitterness, the side who played the best today won. We knew the France team turning up today would be a good France team - Parra at 10 had a great game, he bossed things. We wish them all the best in the final.

"We're absolutely devastated, we worked hard getting through the group and it was a great performance last week.

France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, who was impressive playing through the pain of a thigh injury, said: "We feel first very proud."

Les Bleus have been far from their best throughout this tournament and failed to light up Eden Park today against 14 men, but can nevertheless prepare for the final.

And Yachvili said: "We started this competition very badly but we are proud because of the team spirit in the French team. We didn't play our best rugby tonight but we won so we are very happy.

"We know Wales maybe deserved to win because they had the injury, they had a red card - but we won and we are very happy.

"In 1987 France were in the final and those players for us are legends, but now it's us."

Captain Thierry Dusautoir added: "We're really happy to be in the final. It was a really tough game but we are going to play a Rugby World Cup final so we are really happy.

"We won thanks to our defence. We didn't play such good rugby, the way we can, but we played with our hearts."

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