French star Sebastian Vahaamahina has made an emotional confession to his teammates after effectively costing his nation a place in the World Cup semi-finals with a red card during France’s 20-19 defeat to Wales in Oita on Sunday.
The 27-year-old was sent from the field by referee Jaco Peyper in the 49th minute after the New Caledonian-born lock struck Welsh loose forward and eventual man-of-the-match Aaron Wainwright in the face with his elbow.
At the time of his dismissal, the French were leading the fixture 19-10, but conceded 10 more points in Vahaamahina’s absence, ruling them out of a place in the competition’s final four.
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In a video posted on French broadcaster TF1’s website, a tearful Vahaamahina spoke to his squad members in the French changing room after the match to apologise for his actions.
“I think I completely lost my head. It’s difficult,” he said.
“Frankly it’s indefensible … you’re one hell of a generation of players,” he added, in reference to France’s emerging crop of young talent, including the likes of scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, flyhalf Romain Ntamack and loose forward Gregory Alldritt, who have yet to play more than 20 tests each but were considered integral members of France’s World Cup campaign.
Aaron Wainwright's reaction to the red card that helped swing momentum Wales' way in their win over Francehttps://t.co/oHJmAcyEIe
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 20, 2019
After the match, French captain Guilhem Guirado and veteran No. 8 Louis Picamoles both announced their retirements from international rugby, ending their tenures with Les Bleus on a disappointing note.
The loss will have particularly stung given how well France had played before conceding a 74th-minute try to Ross Moriarty, with Welsh head coach Warren Gatland admitting that his opponents deserved to be in the semi-finals ahead of his own side.
“The better team lost. That red card was obviously important,” the Kiwi coach said in a post-match television interview.
“The great thing about our boys is they don’t give up. We kept working away in a tough, physical game after France came out of the blocks well.
“We stuck in the game and obviously the red card was the big, significant moment. And Tomos Williams came on with a little break and that rip at the end was pretty special.”
Wales will now face South Africa in the second of next weekend’s two semi-finals in Yokohama as they eye a maiden berth into the World Cup final, where they would face one of either England or New Zealand.
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