France have called for World Rugby to investigate a photo of referee Jaco Peyper in which he appears to mock the elbow to the head that earned Sebastien Vahaamahina a red card.
Peyper sent Vahaamahina off for his brazen act of thuggery early in the second-half of Sunday’s 20-19 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat by Wales.
In full view of Oita Stadium, the Clermont lock struck Aaron Wainwright in the head while France staged an attacking maul, leaving Peyper to make one of the easier decisions of his career.
But the South African official has now invited controversy after a picture emerged on social media showing him posing with Welsh fans and playfully landing an elbow on to the jaw of one.
“This photo if it is true is shocking and explanations will be necessary,” French Rugby Federation vice president Dr Serge Simon said on Twitter.
Hours after he sent Vahaamahina off, Jaco Peyper was photographed mimicking the elbow with Welsh fans...— FOX SPORTS Rugby (@FOXRUGBY) October 20, 2019
And the French are NOT happy! 🤬🤬🤬 https://t.co/XexmTzlG0p
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Wales gained a semblance of revenge on France as they edged home in a thrilling Rugby World Cup quarter-final, beating Les Bleus 20-19 in Oita.
Warren Gatland’s men were behind until the 75th minute following a stunning display from the French, who first showed off their free-flowing attacking rugby to storm into 12-0 and 19-10 leads, before displaying resilience and grit to defy the Dragons after Sebastien Vahaamahina’s red card.
Vahaamahina, Charles Ollivon, and the brilliant Virimi Vakatawa had scored first-half tries for the French, Aaron Wainwright replying for Wales. And only Ross Moriarty’s late score, converted by Dan Biggar, edged Wales home by a point, following Vahaamahina’s exit for an elbow on Wainwright.
It was reminiscent of the semi-final eight years ago when Wales had Sam Warburton sent off but dug in and lost out on a place in the final by a point, losing 9-8.
CAN’T DIS-CARD THE SIMILARITIES
It’s funny how the universe works. You sometimes hear in sport the phrase “you just couldn’t write it”, but there cannot have been more truth to the meaning of it than in Oita on Sunday.
On October 15, 2011, France beat Wales to reach their third World Cup final. The result came after a red card for their opponents but only following a mighty scrap and a brave, spirited fight from the 14 men. Ultimately Wales were vanquished, France victorious.
Fast forward eight years – or 2,927 days – and Wales claimed a barely believable victory over Les Bleus to reach just a third-ever World Cup semi-final. They did so after a red card for their opponents and only following a mighty scrap and a brave, spirited fight from the 14 men. This time it was the men in blue left vanquished, the men in red victorious.
The irony is not lost on either set of fans. Inside Eden Park eight years ago, Wales fans had the life sucked out of them when Alain Rolland controversially sent captain Warburton off for a tip-tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc. Wales faced the prospect of playing 61 minutes down a man. France, seemingly, had a red carpet walk into the final.
It was anything but, though. A stirring, spirited second-half display kept them in the game and Mike Phillips even crossed for the only try with 23 minutes left to set up an epic finale. But Stephen Jones’ conversion struck the upright and Leigh Halfpenny missed a long-range penalty at the death as France held on.
Back to the present; an eerily similar scenario in Oita. The main difference being there was nothing controversial about Vahaamahina’s dismissal for a violent elbow to Wainwright’s face.
France faced 32 minutes a man down and yet, even though they did not add to their 19 points, they summoned a superhuman effort and forced a litany of mistakes from Wales that looked likely to cost them dearly.
Only Biggar’s conversion of Moriarty’s try five minutes from time edged his side ahead. And even then it was a nerve-jangling five minutes before they could celebrate.
In every game on their run to the knockout stages, Wales had been in full control of proceedings. Even in the nerve-shredding 29-25 triumph over Australia in which they had to withstand one hell of a Wallabies comeback in the second half, they were always at the wheel.
But there was no captain steering this unmissable shipwreck of a game that rose and crashed like a storm at sea. You couldn’t take your eyes off it for a second.
Wales are the superior team and France have been frustrating to watch for well over a decade now. Equally capable of the beguiling as they are the bewildering. But from the moment they opened the scoring in the fifth minute this was set up to be a scrappily brilliant contest with the two prized pugilists competing blow for blow.
It was organised chaos and it suited the bohemian French flair as opposed to the more stout and resolute rugby Wales have played under Warren Gatland. The French forced Wales to play their game, which was as engaging as it was error-strewn. The duo combined for 25 turnovers and Wales missed a staggering 26 tackles.
And yet it ended in the same fashion as their Six Nations date in Paris at the start of February. France raced into a 16-0 lead before throwing it away and losing 24-19.
They imploded then and despite the credit with which they’ll rightly emerge from this contest, the frustration will be annoyingly familiar.
FROM MIDFIELD MAESTRO TO PACK MENTALITY
In the Welsh back row, an area of mammoth men, Wainwright’s impact on their run to the quarter-finals had been fairly understated prior to this. But his contribution was gigantic against the French as he earned himself the man of the match award.
Five runs, from which 64 metres were made; only Liam Williams made more. He made two clean breaks, more than any team-mate, the joint most of any player on the field in fact. He added 14 tackles on the defensive side of the ball – only Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones and Tomos Francis completed more. He even chipped in with his first Wales try to keep them in it early on when France threatened to run away.
Wainwright’s rise is stunning when you consider the 22-year-old is a footballer-turned rugby player who only took up rugby seriously six years ago – two years before the last World Cup.
The blindside flanker was actually a pretty good central defensive midfielder, who joined the Cardiff City academy aged seven, playing with the Bluebirds until he was 16.
While red-shirted colleagues will have grown up idolising Gareth Edwards, Neil Jenkins or Shane Williams, Wainwright’s heroes were Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele, moulding his game on the iconic midfielders.
He even got the chance to receive coaching from Arsenal legend Vieira while he was in Wales taking his badges, when Wainwright was 14 and still dreaming of a professional career with the round ball.
Cardiff released him and he was offered a scholarship with home town Newport. But it would have meant moving schools and leaving his mates, which Wainwright didn’t want to do.
That’s when he got into rugby. And he’s since switched from protecting things in front of the back four to moving to the 15-man game and picking up the ball with his hands. Now he’s a game away from a shot at getting his hands on the Webb Ellis trophy.
Michael Cheika has insisted he had no choice but to resign after Australia were dumped out of the Rugby World Cup by England.
The former Leinster and Stade Francais boss has stepped down as Wallabies head coach in the wake of Saturday’s 40-16 thumping in the quarter-finals.
The 52-year-old admitted he had to resign after pledging to the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) that he would quit if the Wallabies fell short of their World Cup potential.
Cheika angrily refused to answer questions about his future in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s hefty loss to England, but only a day later he has confirmed his tenure is at an end.
“At the time I wasn’t keen to answer but I always knew the answer in my head,” said Cheika. “I wanted to speak to my wife and tell a few people I care about.
“I put my chips in earlier in the year, I said ‘no win, no play’, so I’m the type of person who will always back what he says.
“I knew from the final whistle, but I just wanted to give it some time to settle down. I have no regrets about making the call, but yes, I would love to stay on.
“We have a lot of pride and a lot of honour, but I made my call.
“I wanted to show I was prepared to put myself on the line to achieve what I believed the team could and we didn’t do that, so I’ve got to stand by what I said.”
Sydney-born but of Lebanese descent, Cheika made his name as an uncompromising back-rower at Randwick, where he forged a close bond with current England boss Eddie Jones.
Cheika made his fortune away from the game in a clothing business specialising in jeans, and he has now admitted he has no need to remain in rugby.
Asked whether he will seek a return to top-level coaching, Cheika said: “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it to be honest.
“It will be very hard to replicate the thrill and excitement of coaching at international level to be honest.
“I’ve never coached as a job, only for the pleasure. I haven’t really thought about it, so I’ll see what happens next.
“I’m not swayed by many things, as long as I know I’m doing my absolute best, leaving no stone unturned to prepare the team but also representing the game for the whole country.
“I tried my absolute best to do that. I’ve loved every minute of it so there’s no emotional toll.
“I’m no drama queen. I love the ups and downs, and that’s the way it rolls. I’m no finger-pointer. I think I’m half-and-half for wins which isn’t too dissimilar across the board.
“I’m not looking for an excuse there or an excuse here. I’ve tried to make the best of every opportunity I’ve been given. We weren’t able to deliver consistency over the whole time.
“We had some great moments, that comes with part of the challenges we’ve got around losing players overseas, young players coming through.
“But at the end of the day that’s pretty irrelevant, it’s all about trying to do the best you can in any given situation. Our best wasn’t good enough in this tournament.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement: “On behalf of Rugby Australia, I want to thank Michael for his dedication and service to the role of Wallabies head coach since taking up the position in 2014.
“Michael is a passionate and experienced coach who worked tirelessly to get the best out his players. He cares deeply about the Wallabies and the game of rugby, and always set out with the aim of making Wallabies fans proud of the team’s performances.”