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Rugby World Cup: ‘scared’ Wales need to toughen up against South Africa

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Oct 23, 2019

France captain Guilhem Guirado has mocked Wales’s timidity

Ross Moriarty scored the match-winning try for Wales against France in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final

Wales take on the might of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals on Sunday, and it’s clear who the French think will emerge victorious.

See related Rugby World Cup: semi-final predictions, latest betting odds, pre-tournament winner picks

Warren Gatland’s Wales edged past France 20-19 in their dramatic quarter-final at the weekend and footage has emerged in which the French captain, Guilhem Guirado, mocks their opponents’s timidity.

“They are the first or second in the world? Seriously?” exclaims Guirado in a post-match pep talk to his players, that has been broadcast on French TV.

“They were s****ing their pants all match. In the first half, they looked at each other, they said to themselves, ‘Who is this? Who is this crazy team?’”

Winning ugly

Wales won ugly against the 14-man French – after Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off on 48 minutes for a vicious elbow on Aaron Wainwright – and Guirado’s words are likely to touch a nerve in the Welsh camp.

They were certainly not the same confident side that romped to the Six Nations grand slam title six months ago, but going into Sunday’s semi-final as underdogs may help them shed their inhibitions.

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Let’s get physical
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The man who scored the winning try against France, Ross Moriarty, says they know they are in for a bruising encounter against a Springbok side that strangled the life out of Japan in their quarter-final.

“South Africa are renowned for being a physical team,” said Moriarty. “I know what their forwards thrive on, which is being physical, and that’s what I thrive on as well.

“Some players go hiding when it gets tough, but I think I get better in those situations.”

‘Please, don’t be a red’

Moriarty replaced Josh Navidi in the first-half against France, and his physicality soon earned him a yellow card for a high tackle on France’s Gael Fickou. He admits that the tackle was so bad he feared he could have been sent off.

“I was just thinking, ‘please, please don’t be a red’,” said Moriarty. “That was definitely a big moment. I had been on for only 90 seconds and I was thinking to myself, ‘If he gives me a red card, this is the end of me’.

“It was a mistimed tackle. I closed my eyes and thought he was going to run round me, but he stopped and ducked under me.”

Easiest try

Moriarty scored the crucial try four minutes from time against France, and the 25-year-old back-row forward admitted he didn’t have to do that much other than pluck the ball off the ground and flop over the try-line.

“I was running towards the ball and just thinking, ‘I can’t mess this up’,” he said. “I just landed on my head first and got the ball under my chest to make sure no one could come in and get it.

“It was probably the easiest try I’ve ever scored but probably the most nervous I’ve been when scoring one.”

Wales or South Africa will face England or New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final on 2 November in Yokohama.

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For analysis of the biggest sport stories – and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news – try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6
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