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.

Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies and George North have all overcome fitness concerns to take their place in Wales' team for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France on Sunday.

Warren Gatland has been able to name the same team that defeated Australia in the pool stage with three of his key backs returning.

Fly-half Biggar missed the Uruguay game having taken a blow to the head when colliding with team-mate Liam Williams in the win over Fiji.

Centre Davies and winger North had been battling knee and ankle injuries respectively.

However, all three will start in Oita as Gatland's side seek to avenge their 2011 World Cup semi-final loss to Les Bleus.

Wales have won seven of their past eight fixtures against France since that last-four loss at Eden Park eight years ago.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will move joint-third - level with Brian O'Driscoll - in the all-time international appearances list when he features in his 141st Test - nine of which have come with the British and Irish Lions.

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tom Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semi-final and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champions New Zealand in two of their previous three meetings, but Ireland have a rotten record in World Cup quarter-finals.

Hosts Japan face South Africa – the team they stunned in the pool stage four years ago – in their first World Cup quarter-final, while Wales meet France and England take on an Australia side they have an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarter-final clashes.

 

England v Australia

6 - England have dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage – the most of any team – while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand v Ireland

7 - Ireland are in their seventh World Cup quarter-final and have lost all of their previous six matches at this stage – the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter – a run that dates back to a quarter-final defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand have scored a try in each of their last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

Wales v France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Warren Gatland's team have won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of their pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. They have never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Tests in which they have been leading at half-time – the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when they were 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan v South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was their first over a Tier One nation. Since then they have won two of their three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.

Warren Gatland is an "incredible person" and Wales will do all they can to ensure the Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France is not his last match in charge, says assistant and skills specialist Neil Jenkins.

The popular New Zealander is to leave his role as head coach after the tournament in Japan following a hugely successful 12-year stint.

Gatland will hope to stay in Japan for a while longer yet, with Wales looking to better the semi-final and quarter-final appearances they achieved in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

Jenkins has paid tribute to Gatland's qualities not only as a coach but away from the training field as well.

"His record speaks for itself as in the results, the success, the togetherness of the team and the squad and the staff," Jenkins said.

"Gats is not just an incredible rugby coach, he is an incredible person as well. He brings so much to this environment, it's unbelievable, really.

"It would be incredibly sad to see him go, obviously. It would be nice if we could give ourselves another fortnight in Japan for him and for everyone involved.

"Gats is the same, no matter who we are playing, week to week. It is probably us he has to calm down and the rest of the coaches.

"He is an incredibly smart rugby man and knows the game inside out, and we will be prepared for Sunday.

"He's been here for 12 years, and whatever he does, everyone looks up to him and understands why he does it.

"He's a very smart operator, he does things for a reason and there is always a plan behind things."

Jenkins also spoke of the difficulty the coaching team have had in curbing the enthusiasm of fly-half Dan Biggar, who sustained separate injuries in pool-stage matches against Australia and Fiji.

Biggar is expected to face Les Bleus in Oita on Sunday and Jenkins says the number 10 is chomping at the bit for the last-eight clash.

"Curbing him is very difficult," Jenkins added. "He's a competitor, full-stop. He's a winner. He's a very physical rugby player, he gets stuck in.

"He's done everything that's been asked of him constantly and consistently and he's ready to go. He's desperate to play. He's world-class and he'll be ready to go again, there's no doubting that."

Luka Modric escaped significant injury in Croatia's 1-1 Euro 2020 qualifying draw with Wales, with Real Madrid confirming he suffered bruising to his right quadriceps.

The midfielder had to be helped from the pitch by Croatia's medical staff with a minute of normal time remaining, having received a knock when he fouled Harry Wilson and earned a booking in Cardiff on Sunday.

He underwent tests after returning to his club, with the results announced on Tuesday.

"Following the tests carried out today on our player Luka Modric by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a contusion to his right quadriceps," a statement from Madrid read.

"His recovery will continue to be assessed."

Zinedine Zidane's side resume their LaLiga campaign with a trip to Mallorca on Saturday.

Warren Gatland realises the importance of Wales following up an impressive victory against Australia by performing well in their remaining Pool D matches.

Wales took control of their Rugby World Cup group by clinging on against the Wallabies and earning a hard-fought 29-25 win.

Gatland's side are expected to challenge for a first title at this tournament, yet the coach is first focused on ensuring they do not "take anyone lightly" prior to the knockout stages.

Wales face Fiji and then Uruguay in a pair of fixtures they will be expected to win.

"It was a tough game [against Australia] and a victory. It's confidence boosting hopefully for the next couple of games," he told a news conference. "We think they're going to be tough.

"Fiji will be hurting and we saw how well they played against Australia in the first half of that first game. We can't take anyone lightly in this group.

"It's important for us that we make sure we prepare in the best way that we possibly can and that we don't take any team or any performance for granted.

"We have to be as clinical as we possibly can be because that's what good teams do. They make sure that they are clinical and they are accurate.

"If we are to be considered a good team, we have got to play well in these next two matches."

Wales were waiting to see how Dan Biggar recovered after a failed head injury assessment, but Gatland was optimistic Liam Williams would be fit after rolling his ankle.

"We'll need to make sure we recover," Gatland said. "We've got nine or 10 days until our next match.

"We'll use that in the best way we possibly can to freshen up the guys and make sure we take a little time. It's nice getting a decent break before our next match against Fiji."

Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika was not receptive to discussing Wales' chances when he was asked for an assessment at his own spiky news conference.

"I don't think that's really for me to talk about, is it? We've played our game against them and move onto the next game," he said.

"They won, now move onto the next game. It's not my place to talk about who's going to win and who's not."

Michael Cheika claimed decisions at the Rugby World Cup are making him "embarrassed" and question his own knowledge of the laws after feeling Australia were let down by officials again.

The Wallabies had seen Reece Hodge suspended for three matches in the build-up to playing Wales, having been cited for a dangerous tackle against Fiji.

That challenge and the subsequent hearing prompted a public debate in which Hodge took issue with those criticising his supposed lack of knowledge of the "high tackle decision making framework".

Australia were then frustrated to see an apparent high tackle from Rhys Patchell on Samu Kerevi that instead saw the Wallabies man penalised for use of the forearm in the carry.

Cheika outlined his issues with the incident in a post-match news conference.

He also claimed "administrators are spooking referees" due to their awarding of suspensions after the fact, while the coach was bemused to hear England's Piers Francis had evaded a ban at his own hearing.

"It was pretty funny because I thought I'd seen that [Patchell] tackle before," Cheika said. "It could have been Reece Hodge...

"I'm not sure. But when our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. When this guy doesn't think about the high-tackle framework, we get penalised.

"You've seen it. As a former player, I'm embarrassed about that."

He added: "I don't know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don't know the rules anymore.

"They all seem spooked. Everyone seems worried about stuff so much. I'm not sure why they're worried - players aren't worried.

"Then it's affecting everything else on the field as well, decisions on all types of crazy stuff. Then I hear that the English guy got off at the suspension thing. Wow.

"I've not said anything there, have I? It just shows if you're not confused, maybe the floodlights going out at the end was a symbol.

"The administrators are spooking referees. The referees are worried about making the wrong decisions and they're becoming ultra cautious about everything, and it's not inviting to the fans.

"Why should we be having booing out there in a game like that with those types of crowds? There shouldn't be people booing - and they're not booing the players either. That shouldn't be happening."

Asked if rugby was becoming "soft", Cheika replied: "It's a tough one, right? Very tough.

"You've got to take care and look after players but not to an extreme where you're just looking after players for doctors and lawyers. Look after players for players."

Australia captain Michael Hooper conceded the Wallabies left themselves with too much to do against Wales after a poor first half on Sunday.

In what will surely be the key fixture in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, Wales got the better of a strong-finishing Australia 29-25, having led 23-8 at the break.

Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself set up a tense finish, but the Wallabies could not quite wrestle back control of the match.

Hooper was disappointed but keen to move on quickly, knowing Australia cannot afford to spend too long reflecting on a defeat that likely sends them into the same side of the draw as England and New Zealand.

"It was a close game between two very willing teams and it came down to the wire," he said.

"It was 17-6 [in the second half] - we had the momentum, we just gave away too many in the first half. In particular the back-to-back points really hurt us.

"Congratulations to Wales for holding us out.

"We'll review it now. Recovery is key. We'll review it pretty hard, but in this format of competition, you've got to move on pretty quickly."

Coach Michael Cheika offered a blunt assessment of Australia's defeat, adding: "What went wrong? We just lost by a couple of points - it was a tight contest and that's the way it goes sometimes."

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