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."

Warren Gatland was delighted to see Wales edge past Australia in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter he acknowledged they might well have lost previously.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced out to a 23-8 half-time lead before Australia built momentum in the second period and set up a nervy finish with tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper.

But Wales clung on to take a 29-25 victory and seize control of Pool D, potentially avoiding England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals and semis.

Gatland saw this as the type of clash Wales would have come up short in prior to the last 12 months in which they have forged a steely reputation, also beating Australia in a Test last November.

"It was pretty special," he told ITV Sport. "It was a good first half and we hung on in the second half.

"Australia came at us and the boys are pretty sore and battered in the changing rooms. It was a really tough physical game - and those are the ones in the past that we've been losing.

"It was nice to hold on at the end and I thought our bench were fantastic and gave us some real momentum and fresh legs when we needed them."

He added: "We're really pleased to get that win - it takes a little of the pressure off us. Now we're kind of in control of our own destiny in terms of what happens."

Alun Wyn Jones, making a record 130th appearance, praised Wales' character but was slightly concerned by another "tentative" second half.

Wales had similarly built a big lead against Georgia before slowing after the break, their 29-point half-time advantage failing to increase as they won 43-14.

"I'm pretty happy with the character we showed - particularly in the second half," Jones said.

"At times, it did feel a bit like the Georgia game, where we had a great first half and were a bit tentative in the second half. We'll have a look at that, but I'm pleased with the result."

Wales were beaten in three of their four Rugby World Cup warm-up matches, but this, a pool game against Australia, was different.

The expectation had been building for some time, with the winners almost certain to top Pool D and therefore avoid a daunting path through the tournament that would likely include England in the quarter-finals and New Zealand in the semis.

"If Wales can win [against Australia] then I expect them to do good things," former captain Sam Warburton told Omnisport.

And just as at the Six Nations, where they celebrated a stunning Grand Slam triumph, Wales stepped up when it mattered most and just about got the job done against regular World Cup foes.

Wales had been beaten by the Wallabies at three consecutive World Cups but ended that run in battling fashion, having also scraped through in the same fixture last November for their first victory over Australia in almost 10 years.

Warren Gatland's side have become the men for the big occasion over the past 12 months and yet may not now have to play an elite side again until the semi-finals.

Perhaps this result says more about Australia, who attempted a brave fightback but won just four Tests in 2018. Michael Cheika's side did not lack for courage but some basic errors at key times meant their World Cup chances took a major hit.

If Wales are to become just the second team - after England in 2003 - to follow up a Six Nations or Rugby Championship success by becoming world champions, it was vital to end their Australia hoodoo listed below.
 

2007: Wales 20-32 AUSTRALIA (pool stage)

After consecutive quarter-final appearances in the prior two finals, Wales would have expected to progress from their pool in 2007. But they were hit by a setback when Australia tore through them in a brutal first-half showing.

The Welsh were 25-3 down at the break and left to tussle with Fiji for second place. A painful late defeat to the Flying Fijians in their final pool match resulted in an early exit.


2011: Wales 18-21 AUSTRALIA (bronze final)

Wales got revenge over Fiji four years later with a pool-stage thrashing but they could not get one over Australia. They avoided the Wallabies in a run to the semi-finals, but the sides' respective defeats to France and New Zealand set up a bronze final meeting.

The Welsh attack could not fire as it had earlier in the tournament and Australia eased to victory, with Leigh Halfpenny's try rescoring some balance to the scoreline but coming far too late.


2015: AUSTRALIA 15-6 Wales (pool stage)

Neither Australia nor Wales were the big-name casualties in a packed Pool A, as England fell at the first hurdle on home turf, but a Twickenham clash to close their pool campaigns would decide who topped the group.

There was not a single try but Bernard Foley's boot proved the difference as the Wallabies defended doggedly, avoiding South Africa in the last eight and enjoying a run all the way to the final. The Springboks dumped out Wales, who could understandably be sick of the sight of Australia by this stage.


2019: Australia 25-29 WALES (pool stage)

Coming into their second pool match as Six Nations Grand Slam champions and having beaten Australia less than 12 months previously, Wales were finally ready to best the Wallabies on the big stage, with the boots of Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell this time crucial.

Wales had to withstand second-half pressure but got the job done and might now be able to target a serious push for the title...

Wales took a huge step towards topping Pool D at the Rugby World Cup with a nail-biting 29-25 win over a fast-finishing over Australia in Tokyo.

First-half tries from Hadleigh Parks and the outstanding Gareth Davies made the Wallabies pay for a slow start and set up a result which should see Wales avoid a quarter-final date with England.

Warren Gatland's men did have their 15-point half-time lead trimmed to one during the second period but held firm with help from Rhys Patchell's vital third three-pointer.

The Scarlets fly-half only came on after Dan Biggar was forced off due to concussion, the lone setback for Wales on Alun Wyn Jones' 130th cap, a national record.

Wales made a fast start in their tournament-opening win over Georgia and did the same on Sunday as a Biggar drop goal punished Australia's turnover from the kick-off.

Fly-half Biggar was involved again for the first try of the match when Parkes rose high to claim an intelligent kick and extend the margin to 10 points in almost as many minutes.

Australia's nerves eventually started to settle and the recalled Adam Ashley-Cooper got his team on the board by meeting Bernard Foley's cross-field kick.

Foley missed the conversion but made amends with a three-pointer prior to the half-hour mark.

The influential Biggar failed a head injury assessment following a try-saving tackle on Samu Kerevi, yet his absence did nothing to hinder Wales.

His replacement, Patchell, nailed a pair of penalties and extended the lead to 23-8 at half-time after Davies made a second interception, this time from Will Genia, and raced clean through, albeit from a seemingly offside position.

Patchell's successful drop goal in the early stages of the second half prompted Michael Cheika to swap Foley for Matt Toomua and it was the latter's break that ended with Dane Haylett-Petty diving over on the right.

Australia grabbed the momentum and reduced the deficit to four points 20 minutes from the end, Michael Hooper squirming over following a sustained period of pressure.

Toomua made both conversions and then put the Wallabies within one point with a successful penalty, but Patchell responded to give a tiring Wales breathing space in the closing moments.


Wales shed Wallabies hoodoo

Gatland's men beat the Wallabies 9-6 in Cardiff in November 2018 but had lost the past five World Cup meetings between the nations.

Ending that run and avenging the 15-6 pool match defeat to Australia four years ago could provide the impetus for a run deep into the tournament.


Cheika's big call backfires

Australia coach Cheika turned to experience to combat Wales, making four changes to the backline that helped secure a 39-21 win over Fiji.

He might be regretting that decision. Foley and Genia were drafted into the halves and, for experienced players accustomed to this stage, were prone to basic errors that invited pressure.


What's next?

The Wallabies have work to do ahead of Saturday's game against a Uruguay side boosted by a surprise win over Fiji, who are Wales' next opponents on October 9.

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