Jacques Brunel accepted that the red card given to lock Sebastien Vahaamahina was fair but questioned the legality of Wales’ winning try against France.
Vahaamahina’s dismissal by referee Jaco Peyper undoubtedly had an impact on the outcome of the contest, with Brunel admitting post-game that the decision was just and undebatable.
‘The red card, I don’t contest it,’ said the Frenchman. ‘When you see the image it is clear it was a reflex and we cannot deny he had contact with his face.
‘Of course it changed the match. In a quarter-final playing for half the match with 14 men it is difficult. I want to stress the quality of our team which showed courage. We had to make up for this but they had lots of panache and opportunities to score.
‘There are other decisions I don’t agree with. Not the yellow. I think the scrum at the end on which we pushed a little, we lost the ball – I would like to see it again. The last try, there is a player who pulled on the ball and it went forward and so that’s the decision I would like to see again because I am a little disappointed.’
Brunel was referring to a controversial incident in the lead-up to Ross Moriarty’s try that saw the ball ripped from French possession before it was snapped up by flanker Justin Tipuric. Replays suggested that the ball traveled slightly forward but after a consultation between TMO Marius Jonker and the on-field match officials, Peyper decided to award what proved to be the deciding score.
After ruling himself out of managing the side at the 2023 World Cup, which will be hosted by France, Brunel admitted his disappointment for his players but recognised that there is a bright future for the relatively young squad who featured in Japan.
‘I feel what is necessary is of course to have in the next four years time to build up a team that will have results for confidence and it is probably what we lacked,’ added Brunel.
‘But for the future generations we are one of the youngest teams in the competition, and all the potential. They will keep on learning and it will make them mature. There is a brighter future for this team.’
Wales coach Warren Gatland was in agreement with his French counterpart that Vahaamahina’s red card was a defining moment in the match.
‘Obviously the red card was very significant but that sometimes galvanises teams, like last time in the World Cup [when then Wales captain Sam Warburton was sent off during the 2011 World Cup semi-final against the French],’ said Gatland post-game.
‘We didn’t play our best but we showed great character and that’s testament to this group of men.’
‘The officials dealt with it appropriately and I don’t think anyone could complain about it. The right decision was made. Unfortunately that’s what rugby is about now – it’s heat of the moment stuff and he made an error of judgement. But sometimes when you have a lot of testosterone involved in high-intensity games that happens.’
Having already lost centre Jonathan Davies to injury prior to the match, Wales were dealt another blow when eighthman Josh Navidi hobbled off before half time. Gatland admitted that he hoped to have two of his star players fit in time for next weekend’s semi-final.
‘Josh looks like he’s done a bit of a hamstring and Jonathan wasn’t far away from being right,’ continued the Wales coach.
‘He made the decision that was right for the team. He pulled out of yesterday’s captain’s run and this morning he wasn’t 100 per cent but he wasn’t far away. Hopefully the plan is that in the next 48 hours or so he will put himself in contention for the semi-final.’
Wales next face South Africa in the last four of the competition where Gatland’s men will be aiming to avenge their 2015 quarter-final defeat to the Springboks.
Photo: EPA/FEDERICO PESTELLINI/BackpagePix