Wales rally around Warburton

WALES’ World Cup squad have rallied behind their suspended skipper Sam Warburton after he was sent off during an agonising semi-final defeat against France on Saturday.

Warburton will miss next Friday’s third place play-off game following his appearance at a World Cup disciplinary hearing in Auckland yesterday.

The independent judicial officer, England’s Christopher Quinlan QC, hit Warburton with a three-week ban following his 18th-minute red card when he committed what was deemed a dangerous tip tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc.

Warburton admitted the offence at a hearing when evidence was presented by the player, Wales coach Warren Gatland and Warburton’s legal representative Aaron Lloyd.

Warburton will be available for the start of Cardiff Blues’ Heineken Cup campaign, which begins with an away game against Paris-based Racing Metro on November 11.

He has 48 hours to lodge any appeal but said after the verdict: “Obviously I’m very disappointed but allmy attention and focus nowgoes towards the players playing on Friday and supporting them the best I can.”

Rolland’s decision proved a cruel way for flanker Warburton, one of the tournament’s top players, to make his World Cup exit, and it gained mass sympathy from his team-mates.

“He has to bounce back from it now,” former Wales captain and World Cup colleague Ryan Jones said.

“I didn’t know what was happening. From the bench we could see Sam walking off, so we all assumed he had been yellow-carded. Then you could see a little red pop up on the big screen.”

Wales defence coach and former rugby league star Shaun Edwards resisted any temptation to publicly condemn the red card decision when he faced the media at the squad’s central Auckland hotel yesterday ahead of Warburton’s hearing.

“It is very tempting to come out with loud statements, but it is more important I keep my dignity inwhat are quite trying times,” Edwards said.

“He deserved a penalty at least, and potentially a yellow card in my opinion, but in the end it is what the referee decides, not what I think. We have to adhere to what Mr Rolland decides.

“It definitely wasn’t deliberate with Sam. I’ve seen it deliberate where you put your hand underneath the crotch, lift and spin a player.

“I’ve had it done to me a number of times and it is absolutely horrible. So you know it’s deliberate when you see someone put a hand underneath the crotch and spin them round and drive them to the floor.

“With Sam it was an incredibly dominant hit, as you would expect.

“He showed he was much more powerful than the guy he tackled, and he ended up in a position that got him sent off. Mr Rolland believed, obviously, it was a sending-off offence.

“What happened with Sam, speaking to him, was he felt that the guy (Clerc) felt very light in his hands and it was all done in a very quick manner.”

Even with 14 men for more than an hour, they lost only 9-8 and scored the game’s only try through scrum-half Mike Phillips.

Scorers for Wales: Tries: M Phillips. Pens: J Hook.

WALES: L Halfpenny, G North, J Davies, J Roberts, S Williams, J Hook, M Phillips, G Jenkins, H Bennett, Adam Jones, L Charteris, Alun-Wyn Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, T Faletau.

Replacements: P James for A Jones (9), B Davies for A Jones (60), R Jones for Lydiate (55).

Scorers for France: Pens: M Parra 3.

FRANCE: M Medard, V Clerc, A Rougerie, M Mermoz, A Palisson, M Parra, D Yachvili, JB Poux, W Servat, N Mas, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir, J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.

Replacements: F Barcella for Poux (45), D Szarzewski for Servat (45), J Pierre for Pape (61), F Ouedraogo for Bonnaire (75).

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

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