Can Wales avenge 2011 heartache v France? – match preview

Wales v France: ‘Being favourites comes with the territory’ – Gatland
2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final: Wales v France
Venue: Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture Date: Sunday, 20 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Wales will be looking to avenge their 2011 World Cup semi-final defeat when they face France in Oita on Sunday in the 2019 quarter-finals.

The two teams have only met once in the global tournament when France agonisingly defeated Wales 9-8 in Auckland eight years ago.

Wales almost pulled off a stunning win after captain Sam Warburton was red carded after 19 minutes for a tip tackle on Vincent Clerc.

Eight years on, Wales look far more settled then their French opponents having won seven out of the last eight matches between the two sides since that day in 2011.

Wales have proved impressive in achieving quarter-final qualification, winning Pool D by defeating Georgia, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.

There have been reports of unrest in the French camp but Les Bleus are also unbeaten.

France finished second in Pool C behind England after victories over Argentina, Tonga and USA.

The pool decider against England was called off because of Typhoon Hagibis with both sides being awarded two points each. England topped the group after securing more bonus points in their three wins.

Sam Warburton’s red card against France in 2011 was only the second for a Welsh player at a World Cup after Huw Richards was sent off against New Zealand in 1987

Team news

Wales backs Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar and Hadleigh Parkes have all been passed fit as Warren Gatland names the same starting side that played against Georgia and Australia.

Davies has recovered from a knee injury suffered against Fiji, while Parkes picked up a shoulder problem against Uruguay having already suffered a small fracture in his hand against Georgia.

Biggar suffered separate head injuries against Fiji and Australia and was forced off in both games but has passed the return to play protocols.

Wing George North is also available after recovering from an ankle injury.

France have made five changes from the side that defeated Tonga. Scrum-half Antoine Dupont had been troubled by a back problem, but will take his place alongside half-back partner Romain Ntamack.

Aaron Wainwright on being in a world cup quarter final

The starting side consists of 14 players from their opening win against Argentina with the only change being lock Bernard le Roux starting instead of Arthur Iturria.

Brunel’s side shows six changes from the team that lost 24-19 to Wales in the Six Nations in February.

Full-back Maxime Medard is also the only survivor from the French team which beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-final in Auckland.

Wales: L Williams; North, Jonathan Davies, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; Wyn Jones, Owens, Francis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Navidi, Tipuric.

Replacements: E Dee, Carre, D Lewis, Beard, Moriarty, T Williams, Patchell, Watkin.

France: Medard; Penaud, Vakatawa, Fickou, Huget; Ntamack, Dupont; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Le Roux, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Ollivon, Alldritt.

Replacements: Chat, Baille, Setiano, Gabrillagues, Picamoles, Serin, Lopez, Rattez.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa); Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Paul Williams (New Zealand); TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa).

What they said

Wales head coach Warren Gatland: “France are a big team, a physical team. We’ve had a great record against them, we’ve won seven of the last eight games and the one we lost was the 100-minute game in Paris where they scored in the last minute.

“As coaches and players, this is what you do all the hard work and training for. It’s all for big moments and to try to get to finals.

“As a coaching group, we’ve had a lot of success in big matches when it’s really counted, whether that’s been in Grand Slam games, European finals or Premiership finals with Wasps or even on (British & Irish) Lions tours as well.

“We’ve got a pretty good formula as a group about getting things right. It’s not just about the physical preparation, it’s about being mentally right and the top two inches everyone talks about.”

Wales v France: Gatland’s ‘probably been planning this for 10 years – Alun Wyn Jones

France head coach Jacques Brunel: “Wales’s confidence is higher than ours, that’s obvious. Their ranking is much better. They’ve been consistent for a few seasons. That’s undeniable.

“They’re not going to change their strategy. They’re going to rely on a very strong defensive screen, quality individuals, their ability to put the opposition under pressure.

“They’re the favourites. We’re in the role of the underdog. That’s logical, normal, but it doesn’t stop us believing in our chances.”

The Oita Bank Dome opened in 2001

The ground

Set within parkland just outside Oita City, Oita Stadium, also known as the Oita Bank Dome, hosts five Rugby World Cup 2019 matches, including two quarter-finals after England and Australia played in the opening knockout game.

This will be Wales’s second match at the ground following their 29-17 Pool D win over Fiji.

It is the largest World Cup venue on the southern island of Kyushu with a capacity of 40,000 and hosted three matches in the 2002 football World Cup finals.

The stadium has a retractable dome roof with roof system driven by a wire traction system. The roof is closed for all the World Cup matches.

Match stats

  • Wales and France will meet for the second time at the World Cup.
  • Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies and George North all started the 9-8 defeat by France in the 2011 semi-final. Bradley Davies and Leigh Halfpenny also took part in that game but have not been selected in Sunday’s match-day 23.
  • The last meeting between these teams took place at the Stade de France in February 2019, Wales winning 24-19.
  • That win set them on the road to the Grand Slam – but Wales trailed by 16 points at half-time.
  • There have been 97 Test encounters between these sides, with Wales winning 50 and France 44, while three matches were drawn.
  • Wales have won seven of their last eight games against France. The only exception was a 20-18 Six Nations triumph for France at the Stade de France on 18 March, 2017.
  • Wales have only had a perfect record after the pool phase at the 1987 World Cup, when they won all three matches. They finished third overall, their best result in the tournament.
  • Wales have reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the sixth time and are looking for a third semi-final appearance to go alongside 1987 and 2011.
  • Captain Alun Wyn Jones will play his 141st test match for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, equalling Brian O’Driscoll’s record for a player from the original Five Nations. Richie McCaw (148) and Sergio Parisse (142) are the only players who have played more Test matches.
  • France are one of three teams to have reached the knockout stages at all nine World Cups. The other two are New Zealand and Australia.
  • France have won six of their previous eight World Cup quarter-finals. They lost only in 1991 to England and 2015 against New Zealand.
  • Romain and Emile Ntamack are the first father and son to represent France in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. Ross Moriarty will join father Paul in playing in a World Cup quarter-final if he comes off the replacements’ bench for Wales.

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