Wales saw their ambitions of being World Champions dashed at the hands of a 9-8 loss to France last Saturday. However, the match will be best remembered for one particular decision from referee Alain Rolland.
His decision to show Wales captain Sam Warburton a red card in the 18th minute of the match drastically altered not only the result, but also the spectacle.
Warburton’s tackle on French winger Vincent Clerc was a poor one, and in most circumstances a yellow card would have seemed a fair outcome on top of a penalty and 3 almost certain points to France. But for Warburton to be sent off, replays must have shown that he put Clerc down in a dangerous manner, that meaning that he drove his head or neck into the ground. However, replays showed that this was not the case, and that upon realising that the tackle was almost too good, Warburton released Clerc from the tackle, refraining from a dangerous spear tackle on the winger.
Most impressive of all though was the response of the remaining Wales team after referee Rolland’s knee-jerk decision. Despite being a man down, Wales dominated the second half, and had numerous chances to even win the match. Had Stephen Jones’ conversion gone through rather than hitting the post, or one of James Hook’s penalty chances not gone wide of the uprights, Wales would have pulled off one of the World Cup’s most unlikely victories.
The 60,000 Welsh fans in the Millennium Stadium thought that full back Leigh Halfpenny had won the game with a long range penalty before replays showed that the ball dipped just under the posts.
Wales can be proud of their team. They may have lost the match by a single point, but they stood up to a strong French side after they lost their captain, and were Warburton to only have had a yellow card they may well have won the game and gone on to face the All Blacks in what would have been their first World Cup final.