Rugby World Cup live scores, blog: Wales vs France
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A place in the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final awaits. Everything is on the line tonight as Wales meet France at Eden Park. Join us from the commencement at 7.00pm AEDT for live scores and an interactive blog of every minute of the action.
Few, if any, would have picked either Wales or France to be playing in the final of this tournament, yet that is the fate that will await one of these teams after eighty minutes of rugby tonight.
Much of the focus of this tournament has centred around the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and England yet it is the Welsh who have been one of the most consistently-performed teams over the past month.
Save for the final minutes of their 17-16 loss to South Africa in their opening match, Wales have dominated their opponents and thoroughly deserved their resounding 22-10 victory over Ireland last Saturday.
Warren Gatland’s young side has built their success around a stingy defence that has yielded only 44 points in five matches and should they replicate that tonight, they’ll be difficult to beat.
Young flyhalf Rhys Priestland has been unable to recover from a shoulder complaint picked up against Ireland and has been replaced in the starting lineup by James Hook, with the evergreen Stephen Jones coming onto the bench.
Lock Luke Charteris suffered a similiar injury in the match and has been under an injury cloud this week, but is expected to start.
Their French opponents last week proved just how much can change over the course of just seven days when they comprehensively outplayed England to win 19-12 in the quarter-final.
To say that the French were abysmal in their final pool match against Tonga, in which they lost 19-14, would be an absolute understatement, and it was a completely different side who ran out against their English rivals.
Inconsistency is a hallmark of the French. In 2007 they upset the All Blacks in a famous quarter-final victory before wilting against the English a week later, and a repeat performance here would surprise nobody.
Coach Marc Lievremont has given his side every chance to produce a consistent performance, naming an unchanged starting XV on Tuesday.
There had been concerns over halfback and goalkicker Dimitri Yachvili, but he has shaken off a bruised thigh and will take his place in the starting lineup.
It’s the sixth time the French have been to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in seven attempts and they’ll be looking to progress to their third final, and as far as experience goes, they hold the edge here.
For Wales, it’s the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1987 that they’ve made the last four, and have never progressed to the final.
But the players of tournaments past won’t be competing today – like any game of high stakes rugby, this is about who performs, and who holds their nerve in the pressure cooker of a semi-final.
In the 2011 Six Nations France easily dispatched of the Welsh 28-9, but a similiar result seems unlikely tonight.
With strong support in Auckland, and 60,000 packed into Millennium Stadium back home in Cardiff, Wales might just edge the French tonight and progress to their maiden final.
Can they do it? Or have France found their rhythm at the business end of the tournament? Join us from 7.00pm AEDT for up-to-the-minute live scores, and join in on our interactive blog and leave your comments below.
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