Liam Williams Brunel’s reign on last legs with Wales favored vs France

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OITA, Japan (AP) — It’s the land of hot springs in this most southwestern of Japan’s main islands, so Jacques Brunel used some downtime before the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals to sample some of Oita’s soothing and relaxing waters.

Well, he tried.

A torrential downpour forced the France coach to abort his trip soon after getting off the train in Beppu, one of the region’s most famous hot spring resorts.

Unless his team pulls off a surprise win over Wales, Brunel’s underwhelming tenure in charge of Les Tricolores won’t reach his preferred destination, either.

France is the underdog heading into Sunday’s all-European matchup. And for good reason, having lost seven of its last eight meetings with Wales, which recently climbed atop rugby’s world rankings for the first time.

Wales has never been so strong under long-time coach Warren Gatland, winning 14 matches straight — a national record — from March 2018 to March 2019 and sweeping a World Cup pool containing two-time champion Australia.

France, meanwhile, displayed typical inconsistency in advancing to the knockout stage, edging Argentina and then stumbling past Tonga before the pool finale against England was canceled because of Typhoon Hagibis. Speculation swirls that Brunel hasn’t got a handle on his players, that the French might not be too far from mutiny.

As the French say, plus ça change.

Brunel is departing after the World Cup, to be replaced by Fabien Galthie — a man he brought in as assistant in April after France’s latest disappointing Six Nati

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