Faf de Klerk has put the boot in on his social media critics as South Africa prepare to try and kick Wales out of the Rugby World Cup on Sunday. 

Scrum-half De Klerk was named man of the match after his starring role in the 26-3 quarter-final victory over tournament hosts Japan. 

That did not stop some Springboks supporters from calling on the playmaker to cut down on putting up the high balls ahead of a last-four showdown with the reigning Six Nations champions. 

De Klerk defended South Africa's tactics, however, pointing out they were effective in putting their opponents on the back foot. 

"We do kick a lot, but we try to read the game and the momentum. So, if you look at last weekend, we did kick a lot in the air, and Japan managed to contain our aerial battle," De Klerk said. 

"But if you look further than that, we managed to get so much territorial gain on them with our defence, with the guys being loaded on that. 

"It was a very positive outcome when we kicked. We did give them possession, but they rarely managed to do anything with it." 

On facing Wales, he added: "It is going to be a different challenge this week. I don't think we are going to have the same threats as that [Japan provided].

"It's all about seeing the space, and I feel our wings have come so far over the last two years. They are really competing well in the air.

"They [Wales] have got very good wingers, so it is going to be a massive battle in the air. We don't always go out with a set plan of me just going up and kicking.

"We do read the game, and I listen a lot to what Handre [Pollard] is telling me."

Ross Moriarty feared his Rugby World Cup might be over just 90 seconds after he came on in Wales' quarter-final win over France.

Moriarty was called upon earlier than expected at Oita Stadium on Sunday, replacing the injured Josh Navidi in the first half.

The back-row was soon back on the sideline after being shown a yellow card for catching Gael Fickou with a high tackle.

Moriarty returned to score a decisive late try, having feared referee Jaco Peyper may have ended his tournament and potentially brought Wales' campaign to an end.

"I was just thinking, 'please, please don't be a red'," said Moriarty.

"That was definitely a big moment. I had been on for only 90 seconds and I was thinking to myself, 'if he gives me a red card, this is the end of me'.

"I knew how bad that would be for the team. I've been in that situation before and it's not a nice feeling. I never go into a game intending to do anything that would get me a card or put the team at any risk of not winning.

"It was a mistimed tackle. I closed my eyes and thought he was going to run round me, but he stopped and ducked under me."

He added: "It was nice for me to know I didn't cause any damage. I talked to him [Fickou] after the game and he was absolutely fine. We had a good laugh.

"I knew when I came back on I had to be very, very squeaky clean and make sure I didn't do any more damage to the team and myself.

"But it does stick in your mind. I was thinking, 'Please, no one come near me'. Sometimes people slip up in tackles, players duck and dive. It's a contact sport - it's inevitable sometimes. Fortunately, there were no other incidents in the game."

Jaco Peyper has not been selected to referee a Rugby World Cup semi-final after a photo emerged of him with Wales fans apparently mocking France's sent-off lock Sebastien Vahaamahina.

The South African, who was overseeing his 50th Test, dismissed Vahaamahina during Wales' incident-packed 20-19 last-eight win over Les Bleus for elbowing Aaron Wainwright.

France coach Jacques Brunel and Wales counterpart Warren Gatland backed the decision but the picture, which was widely circulated on social media, drew criticism and was investigated by World Rugby.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed Welshman Nigel Owens will officiate England versus New Zealand on Saturday, while France's Jerome Garces is the man in the middle for Wales against South Africa a day later.

A World Rugby statement said Peyper has apologised.

"World Rugby can confirm that the match officials selection committee did not consider Jaco Peyper for selection this weekend," the release read.

"Peyper recognises that a picture of him with Wales fans, which appeared on social media after the Wales versus France quarter-final, was inappropriate and he has apologised."

Wales have drafted in Cardiff Blues winger Owen Lane as a squad replacement for back-rower Josh Navidi ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

Powerhouse Navidi was ruled out after sustaining a hamstring injury in the edgy 20-19 last-eight triumph over France in Oita on Sunday.

With Wales well stocked in the back row, head coach Warren Gatland has opted to bolster his backs.

Centre Jonathan Davies was a late withdrawal against France due to a problematic knee injury, while Hadleigh Parkes has been playing through a broken bone in his hand and a shoulder complaint.

Lane has just one Wales cap to his name, that coming against Ireland in August.

France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina has announced his retirement from Test rugby, just 24 hours after he received a costly red card in his country's Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to Wales.

Les Bleus' run in Japan ended on Sunday when Warren Gatland's team edged a tight encounter 20-19.

France were leading 19-10 when Vahaamahina was dismissed nine minutes into the second half for elbowing Aaron Wainwright, and the 14 men were unable to hang on as Wales avenged their 2011 semi-final loss to the same opponents.

Vahaamahina, 28, has now sent a message to Eurosport Rugbyrama saying he is walking away from international rugby, a decision he claims he reached earlier this year.

"It's hard, very hard for me today - especially because, as I have planned for several months, it was my last match with the national team," he said.

"I hadn't made a public announcement of my retirement but the people impacted by the decision have known since the summer: [France coach] Jacques Brunel, [Clermont Auvergne coach] Franck Azema and several of the players.

"I wanted to have the best possible match and tournament to finish on... perhaps I wanted it too much. My desire and my aggression got the better of me."

The lock received his marching orders from referee Jaco Peyper, who is now the subject of a World Rugby investigation after he appeared to mock the man he dismissed in a picture taken with Wales fans.

A photo circulated on social media of Peyper with his elbow raised to a fan's chin.

France Rugby Federation vice-president Serge Simon demanded an explanation from the South African official.

He tweeted: "This photo if it is true is shocking and explanations will be necessary."

World Rugby confirmed they are looking into the matter.

"World Rugby is aware of a picture on social media of referee Jaco Peyper with a group of Wales fans taken after last night's [Sunday's] quarter-final between Wales and France in Oita," the governing body said.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further while we are establishing the facts."

The Rugby World Cup semi-finals will feature the top four teams in world rugby after the rankings were updated following the quarter-finals.

England and South Africa, courtesy of their convincing wins over Australia and hosts Japan respectively, both climbed one place.

Eddie Jones' side moved above Wales into second, behind defending world champions New Zealand - who England face on Saturday - and the Springboks leapfrogged Ireland.

Six Nations champions Wales beat France 20-19, though even a larger margin of victory would not have kept them from dropping down to third.

Japan had risen to their highest ever ranking after Australia's defeat to England, but the Wallabies moved back into sixth after the Brave Blossoms' loss to South Africa.

France are seventh, with Japan eighth, ahead of Scotland and Argentina, who complete the top 10.

Despite their exit at the hands of South Africa, Japan have won over many fans at the World Cup, with coach Jamie Joseph believing his side are well on their way to becoming a top-five team.

"The team has worked incredibly hard for three years, and this year we worked harder than we've worked ever before," Joseph told a news conference.

"That's put us in a really good position to strive for our goals, which is making the top five in the world."

Wales will be without Josh Navidi for the rest of their Rugby World Cup campaign after the back-rower sustained a hamstring injury in the quarter-final win over France.

Warren Gatland's side secured their place in the last four with a dramatic 20-19 victory over Les Bleus, who had Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off.

Navidi had overtaken Ross Moriarty as Wales' first-choice number eight in Japan but was forced off during the first half on Sunday.

Gatland - who plans to bring in a back, rather than another forward to replace the Cardiff Blues player - has confirmed Navidi's World Cup is over.

"He'll be ruled out. He's no good," Gatland, whose side will face South Africa in the last four, told a news conference on Monday.

"We'll be looking to bring in a replacement tomorrow [Tuesday], but we've got to go through that process.

"It's disappointing for him. We'll keep him out here. It will be nice for him to stay out for the next couple of weeks. 

"It's disappointing for us to have a player ruled out. In saying that, these games are so physical to have only lost one player is a real positive for us.

"We've been pretty lucky. We're trying to keep everyone as healthy as we possibly can."

Jonathan Davies missed the quarter-final due to a knee injury, but Gatland is hopeful the centre will be available for selection on Sunday.

"He was touch and go for the weekend. He's been doing rehab and recovery," Gatland said of Davies.

"Hopefully he'll be up and running for a very light session tomorrow. We'll be doing more of the rugby on Wednesday. Hopefully he's fit and available."

Gatland claimed "the best side lost" following Wales' victory over France, but the outgoing coach was satisfied with his side's resilience and strength of character. 

"We're a bit disappointed about the performance. France played exceptionally well," he added. "I thought we showed some great character and got the win.

"Disappointed with a few aspects but looking forward it's about being excited about the semi-final of a World Cup."

World Rugby has opened an investigation after referee Jaco Peyper appeared to mock Sebastien Vahaamahina in a photo with Wales fans.

Peyper, taking charge of his 50th Test, sent Vahaamahina off in Wales' dramatic Rugby World Cup triumph over Les Bleus on Sunday, with the lock dismissed for elbowing Aaron Wainwright.

Though head coaches Jacques Brunel and Warren Gatland backed Peyper's decision, the South African official is now at the centre of an investigation after he posed for a photo with a group of Wales supporters.

In the picture, which was circulated on social media, Peyper has his elbow raised into a fan's chin.

France Rugby Federation vice-president Serge Simon took to his official Twitter account to demand an explanation.

He posted: "This photo if it is true is shocking and explanations will be necessary."

World Rugby confirmed they are looking into the matter.

"World Rugby is aware of a picture on social media of referee Jaco Peyper with a group of Wales fans taken after last night's [Sunday's] quarter-final between Wales and France in Oita," the governing body said.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further while we are establishing the facts."

Warren Gatland conceded the better team lost after Wales came from behind to see off France in the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

Wales recovered from 12-0 and 19-10 down to defeat a 14-man France, who saw Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off for swinging an elbow into the head of Aaron Wainwright in the 49th minute.

Gatland's men had been second best up until that point, with France wasting opportunities to take a more commanding lead in the first half.

Vahaamahina's dismissal proved a turning point but Wales had to wait until the 74th minute for the winning try, which came in contentious fashion as Ross Moriarty went over after Charles Ollivon had the ball stripped.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live afterwards, Gatland said: "I think the better team lost. The thing about our boys is they don't give up, they keep trying until the end.

"We kept working away. France came out of the blocks well. At half-time we just said we've got to score next, we did that and obviously the red card was the turning point. It was pretty special."

Back in February after Wales came back from 16-0 down to claim an away win over France in the Six Nations, Gatland declared that his side had "forgotten how to lose".

Asked in his post-match media conference if their turnaround was a prime example of that, Gatland replied: "I think it was. The message at half time was that France had started well.

"You have to take your hat off to them. I thought they were excellent and very unlucky. They've definitely improved.

"The red card was significant but that sometimes galvanises teams.

"We didn't play well but we can be excited about looking forward to the semi-final."

Number eight Josh Navidi's participation in the semi-final, where they will face either Japan or South Africa, is in doubt due to a hamstring injury.

"Josh Navidi has done a hamstring," Gatland added. "We don't know how serious it is yet."

Jacques Brunel suspects Wales' match-winning try in their World Cup quarter-final win over France should not have been awarded.

Wales came from behind to beat 14-man France in Oita on Sunday, their cause aided significantly by a 49th-minute red card shown to Sebastien Vahaamahina, who swung his elbow into the head of Aaron Wainwright.

Warren Gatland's men struggled to take full advantage of the dismissal, but found the winning try in the 74th minute as Ross Moriarty went over after Tomos Williams stole the ball from Charles Ollivon close to the France line.

The TMO awarded the try despite the suggestion the ball went forward after it was taken away from Ollivon, a decision Brunel was far from happy with.

"The red card, I don't contest it. When you see the images, it’s very clear. He had a reflex," Brunel told a media conference.

"Of course he feels bad, he's not happy with what he's done.

"We cannot deny it. I don't have any problem with the decision. There are other decisions I don't agree with.

"I would like to see the last try again because I think there is a player who grabbed the ball and then it went forward.

"So I'd like to see that decision again and I'm a little disappointed."

Asked about his team's response to the red card, Brunel added: "We weren't really disorganised but we should have reacted differently.

"We didn't show enough character because we had opportunities to stretch the lead.

"So that's why I'm saying the outcome of the match is difficult to accept."

 

For the majority of Sunday's World Cup quarter-final with Wales, France were in control thanks to a performance that belied the reports of discord in the camp.

Arguably the most unpredictable side in world rugby, Les Bleus showed the best side of themselves for so long in a contest few expected them to have the better of, against a Wales team briefly ranked number one in the world this year.

France were aggressive, fluent with ball in hand and produced the kind of aesthetically pleasing play that is synonymous with their country's finest in full flight.

As Virimi Vakatawa stepped past Josh Navidi and found Romain Ntamack, who then fed Antoine Dupont to set up Charles Ollivon to cruise under the posts and put France 12-0 up, even the most ardent of Wales fan will have feared a vintage display from the side that controversially denied them in the semi-finals in 2011.

Even after an error allowed Adam Wainwright to get Wales on the board, France remained the superior outfit and, despite a pair of missed kicks from Ntamack, it would have been tough to find too many tipping Warren Gatland's men to make a comeback akin to the one they produced at the Stade de France in the Six Nations this year.

However, France are as well known for their meltdowns as they are for their free-flowing style, and it was a moment of madness nine minutes into the second half that ultimately proved crucial in condemning them to a heart-breaking 20-19 defeat.

Guilhem Guirado was recalled to the starting XV for France despite rumours of a bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel, and the atmosphere in the dressing room is unlikely to have been a pleasant one after Sebastien Vahaamahina made a telling contribution to his own side's downfall.

It is unclear whether we will ever be able to understand the method behind the back-row's decision to launch a swinging elbow into the side of Wainwright's head, and his dismissal will go down in World Cup infamy as it proved the turning point in a French failure.

To their credit, Brunel's men held up well despite their man disadvantage and still led 19-13 going into the final six minutes.

Yet Tomos Williams ripped the ball from Ollivon's grasp yards out from the France line and it was collected by Justin Tipuric before Ross Moriarty, whose yellow card preceded the Vakatawa try, turned from villain to hero by scoring the winning try.

France may feel aggrieved, with the try awarded by the TMO despite the suggestion the ball went forward after being stolen from Ollivon, while many in the Wales camp will feel luck has evened out after Sam Warburton's contentious red card in the semi eight years ago.

Brunel's men only have themselves to blame, though. While the crucial try was questionable, Wales' turnaround was aided by handling errors, missed kicks and an inexplicable moment of gross indiscipline.

Consistent also-ran in the Six Nations, France have lurched from one disappointment to the next since their agonising defeat to New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final.

Gatland conceded the best team lost in Oita, but succinctly summed up the continued issue for a side that now infuriate more than they inspire.

"I thought France definitely improved since the Six Nations," said Gatland. "Losing becomes a habit, but so does winning and we are in that habit at the moment."

France are firmly in the losing habit and, with the next World Cup to be held on home soil, they have four years to change that by channelling the fire that can make them such an attractive side to watch into consistency, rather than self-inflicted collapses.

Ross Moriarty went from villain to hero for Wales as Warren Gatland's team beat 14-man France 20-19 to reach the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

His 74th-minute try shattered the hopes of a France side who had looked like clinging on for victory after Sebastien Vahaamahina saw red for a disgraceful elbow into the face of Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright.

France scored a pair of tries inside the opening eight minutes and led 19-10 at half-time, with replacement Moriarty having spent a costly 10 minutes in the sin bin.

But Vahaamahina's moment of recklessness proved pivotal, with Wales eventually making their extra man count in a nail-biter - just as France did when beating the Red Dragons 9-8 in the 2011 semi-final at Eden Park.

Dan Biggar is confident he is 100 per cent ready to return to action in Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France, according to Warren Gatland.

Biggar missed Wales' final Pool D match against Uruguay with concussion after suffering head knocks in consecutive matches against Australia and Fiji.

However, the Northampton Saints fly-half has been passed fit to start against France in Oita on Sunday.

It is a decision Gatland insisted has not taken lightly, but the Wales coach affirmed Biggar has no doubts over his fitness.

"We went through, made sure in terms of consulting the right people and making sure that they were aware of everything, getting him scanned, the independent consultant - that was important," said Gatland in a news conference.

"Dan's been fit for three or four days in terms of having passed those [concussion protocols], so we are taking all the proper precautions.

"But he's very confident that he's 100 per cent."

Gatland did, however, concede extra caution will have to be taken with Biggar should he sustain another head injury.

"He's desperate to play," Gatland added.

"We've just got to make sure if it does happen, if he gets a knock in the next few games, the next couple of months, obviously there would probably be a different course of action."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones has also been selected and will join Brian O'Driscoll in third on the all-time list for international Test appearances with his 141st cap.

"It's one chance to stay or you know where you are going," he said of Wales' ambitions for Sunday's clash.

"It's funny because the planning for this has probably been in Warren's head for the last 10 years rather than the last four years, two years, or 18 months.

"He is constantly building and what we have achieved or have not comes down to this moment."

Warren Gatland is happy for Wales to fly under the radar at the Rugby World Cup, even if they are strong favourites to see off France and reach the semi-finals.

Australia coach Michael Cheika labelled the reigning Six Nations champions as favourites ahead of the Wallabies' clash with Gatland's side in Pool D.

Wales edged out Australia 29-25 on their way to finishing top of the group with a perfect record, yet Gatland believes other teams still left standing in the tournament are getting "a lot more talk" in the media.

Still, they will be strongly fancied to see off France in an all-European quarter-final tie, having come from 16-0 down to beat them 24-19 in Paris in their opening Six Nations match.

"If you take out the World Cup warm-up games, we have won 18 competitive games in a row, we are Grand Slam champions and we know, as we go on in tournaments, we get stronger and more confident and more cohesive as a unit," Gatland said.

"We are building nicely, going under the radar. There is still a lot more talk about other teams and games and that suits us. We've had a great record against France - we've won seven of the last eight games.

"There was an edge to this week and the players have been incredibly professional in the way they've prepared.

"The message to the players is you've got two choices – we are either on the plane on Monday going home or we are here until the end of the tournament."

Maxime Medard acknowledged France must rise to the challenge on Sunday, or else Wales will dominate them at Oita Stadium.

"If we don't raise our level, the Welsh are going to ride all over us," the full-back told the media. "The Welsh have to be favourites. The team has been one of the best in the world for several years.

"You have to keep in mind that the difference between the big teams and the rest is that, in games where you're in trouble, where it turns into an arm wrestle, the big teams don't give in. Wales are a very big team."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wales – Josh Adams

Dan Biggar's availability is a boost to Wales, the fly-half fit to feature following a blow to the head against Fiji, but it is Josh Adams who seems most likely to grab the headlines.

Adams has scored five tries already and the Cardiff Blues wing will be eager to propel Wales into the last four.

France – Guilhem Guirado

Having been left out of France's past two matches following a reported bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel, hooker Guilhem Guirado will return to lead Les Bleus as captain.

If ever there was an opportunity to show his worth, then this will surely be it for the 33-year-old.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- France beat Wales 9-8 in the only previous World Cup meeting between the sides - the 2011 semi-final. Wales captain Sam Warburton was sent off after 18 minutes of the contest.

- Wales won all of their pool stage matches for the first time since 1987. This four-game winning streak is their joint longest at the World Cup and they have never won five in a row in the competition.

- Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Test matches in which they have been leading at half-time.

- Alun Wyn Jones is in line to play a record 19th World Cup match for Wales, surpassing Gethin Jenkins' tally of 18 appearances.

Captain Guilhem Guirado has been recalled to the starting XV for France's Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Wales, despite rumours of a bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel.

Hooker Guirado did not play in France's final two pool-stage games amid reports he had fallen out with Brunel, who it was claimed wanted to remove the captain from his position.

However, with Les Bleus players believed to have given their backing to Guirado, the skipper has been named in the line-up ahead of Camille Chat, who is back on the bench after starting against the United States and Tonga.

Brunel has also been boosted by scrum-half Antoine Dupont and wing Damian Penaud being declared fit.

Dupont had not started since France's opening World Cup match against Argentina due to a back problem, but will feature alongside Toulouse team-mate Romain Ntamack in the half-back pairing.

Penaud, who had complained of a stomach strain earlier in the week, will play on the right wing, with Yoann Huget preferred to Alivereti Raka on the other flank.

In total, 14 of the 15 players who started France's match against Argentina are retained, with Bernard Le Roux replacing Arthur Iturria in the only change from that team.

 

France team: Maxime Medard, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Bernard Le Roux, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Wenceslas Lauret, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Cyril Baille, Emerick Setiano, Paul Gabrillagues, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Camille Lopez, Vincent Rattez.

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