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Logic pointed to nothing other than a Wales win – but logic does not often apply to Wales at the World Cup.
Their hearts had been broken too many times to be overly confident, even if form, world ranking and all other measurable factors suggested they would beat France comfortably.
History’s pain kept Welsh complacency at bay, the most agonising episode of all being the 2011 semi-final loss to France.
Despite having to play almost an entire match with 14 men because of Sam Warburton’s red card, Wales still could have won, and to lose by a single point only deepened their grief in New Zealand.
Eight years on in Japan, they exorcised those demons with a near mirror image of events in Auckland.
This time it was France who saw red – Sebastien Vahaamahina inexplicably elbowing Aaron Wainwright – and now it was Les Bleus who had to suffer the anguish of a one-point defeat.
- Wales into semi-finals with thrilling France win
- Vahaamahina red card ‘clear’ – France coach Brunel
- Davies could be fit for World Cup semi-final
Captain Alun Wyn Jones and George North were the only Wales players to play in both matches, while Maxime Medard was France’s sole survivor.
But despite the changes in personnel, Wales head coach Warren Gatland said in the build-up to this rematch that his players were using the hurt of 2011 as a source of inspiration.
“I think for the players and coaches that were involved in 2011, that is an advantage in terms of preparation and remembering about that,” he said afterwards.
“It is ironic the last time we were in a World Cup there was a red card and it was a one-point game as well.
“We did not play our best but we showed some character, and that is testament to this group of men – we can be excited about looking forward to a semi-final.”
Gatland avoids an early end to his reign
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