Rugby World Cup 2011

Gatland gutted by ref decision

2011-10-15 18:42
Warren Gatland (AFP)

Auckland - Wales coach Warren Gatland slammed referee Alain Rolland's decision to send off skipper Sam Warburton against France here on Saturday, saying it had cost his team a place in the Rugby World Cup final.

Wales, down to 14 men for more than an hour, nearly pulled off a stunning victory, scoring the only try of the match through scrum-half Mike Phillips, before France held out for a 9-8 win on the back of three Morgan Parra penalties.

But the turning point of the match came in the 19th minute when Irish official Rolland, the 2007 World Cup final referee, showed flanker Warburton a red card for a 'tip tackle' on Vincent Clerc that saw the France wing lifted into the air and then land on his head.

"We just feel like the destiny of the result was taken out of our hands with the red card," Gatland said after a sending off that took place with Wales 3-0 up.

"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.

"I feel let down, I thought this team were good enough to go on and take the final but it was not to be," the New Zealander insisted.

"We just feel that ultimately the result wasn't in our control."

A dejected Warburton said: "I'm gutted but there was no malicious intent.

"I felt like as soon as it hit him his bodyweight took control of what happened I thought it was a normal tackle, next thing I was walking off into the stands," added Warburton who praised the resilience of his team-mates.

"The courage and bravery the lads showed was second to none."

Openside flanker Warburton, 23, won widespread acclaim for leading Wales into only their second World Cup semi-final but he could now be banned from next week's third place playoff against either New Zealand or Australia.

Warburton's red card means the bright new face of Welsh rugby will forever have his name linked with that of the infamous Huw Richards, the first Wales player to be sent off at a World Cup.

For Wales there was horrible sense of history repeating itself as Richards was red-carded in their only previous semi-final, at the inaugural 1987 edition.

Then, as now, Richards was dismissed in a losing cause after punching New Zealand's Gary Whetton late on in the All Blacks' 49-6 win in Brisbane.

Kevin Moseley was the last Wales player to be sent off, against France in 1990.

Warburton's red card was only the second of this World Cup after Samoa fullback Paul Williams was ordered off for punching South Africa flanker Heinrich Brussow.


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