A guide to the RWC semis

Saturday the 15th …

Wales v France, Eden Park, Auckland – 10:00

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Danny Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Substitutes: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Paul James, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Scott Williams.

France:15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Substitutes: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Fabien Barcella,18 Julien Pierre, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Francois Trinh-Duc, 21 David Marty, 22 Cedric Heymans.

Referee: Alain Rolland
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan and Wayne Barnes

Head-to-head

– Wales and France have met in 88 Test matches with Wales leading the head-to-head 43 to 42. There have been three draws.
– France also played two matches against a Wales XV in the 1940s with the teams winning one match each.
– The teams have never met at the Rugby World Cup.
– The only match between the two held at a neutral venue was the 1998 Five Nations match which was held at Wembley owing to the construction of Millennium Stadium. This match was technically a Wales home match.
– Of the 88 Tests between these nations, only four have been played in the second half of the year, outside the Five/Six Nations. All four of those matches have been played in Cardiff in the last 20 years and France have won three of the four by an average of almost 16 points.
– France have won 10 of the past 13 match-ups. Their best winning streak during that period is three matches, which they have achieved three times and is also their current streak against the Welsh.
– The last time France won more than three consecutive matches against the Welsh was a 12-match winning streak from 1983 to 1994.
– The team scoring the most tries has won nine of the past 13 matches between these two teams. Three of the remaining four matches saw the teams score the same number of tries and in all three cases the team scoring the most penalties won the match. France’s win in the 2007 Six Nations match was the only time in that period that one team scored less tries than the other and won the match.
– The team leading at half-time has won five of the past six matches. The 2009 Six Nations match was 13-all at half time.
– Eleven of France’s starting line-up played in Les Bleus’ last match against Wales, a 28-9 win in this year’s Six Nations. Ten of the 11 started that match. The four players who did not play in March are loosehead prop Jean-Baptiste Poux, scrum half Dimitri Yachvili and centres Maxime Mermoz and Aurélien Rougerie.
– Ten of Wales’ starting line-up played in the 2011 Six Nations match against France. The five who missed that match but will play on Saturday are Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Luke Charteris, Toby Faletau and Shane Williams. Four other replacements for Saturday were involved in the match, with Paul James, Bradley Davies and Ryan Jones starting and Stephen Jones coming on from the bench.

Wales

– Fourth in the IRB World Rankings, equalling their highest ranking, which they last held in February 2009.
– A win would guarantee Wales their best RWC finish. Their previous best was third place at RWC 1987. The 1987 tournament in New Zealand was their only previous appearance in a RWC semi-final.
– Have won their last four RWC matches, which equals their best streak, recorded when they won their first four RWC 1987 matches before losing their semi-final to New Zealand.
– Wales’ last five-match winning streak in all Tests was their Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008.
– Only two of Wales’ 12 RWC defeats have been against northern hemisphere opposition; 23-24 to Ireland in 1995 and 17-28 to England eight years ago, a match in which Wales outscored England three to one on tries.
– Have won 13 of their 20 RWC matches played in the southern hemisphere. Their northern hemisphere RWC record is five wins and six defeats.
– Are the second team to reach a RWC semi-final after failing to progress past the pool phase at the previous edition. Argentina, in 2007, were the first team to do so.
– Have used only 22 of their 35 named replacements through their five matches at RWC 2011, significantly less than the other three semi-finalists. Australia have left only five players on the bench through their five matches, France only one and New Zealand have used all seven replacements in all of their RWC 2011 matches.
– Were the only team to score more than two tries in the RWC 2011 quarter-finals.
– Won 12 of their opponents’ lineouts during the pool phase of RWC 2011. Only Ireland (14) and Samoa (13) won more. They won another three opposition lineouts in their quarter-final against Ireland. Only South Africa (five) won more.

France

– Fifth in the IRB World Rankings having regained the three places they lost after their defeat to Tonga with their win against England in the quarter-finals.
– Are in the RWC semi-finals for a sixth time in seven editions, a record they share with New Zealand.
– Are the first team to reach the RWC semi-finals after two defeats in the pool phase.
– Are in a fifth successive RWC semi-final, equalling the record set by New Zealand from 1987 to 2003 and ended by France in 2007.
– Have lost three RWC semi-finals, equal with New Zealand who are the only other team to have lost more than one.
– Of the eight RWC 2011 quarter-finalists, only Argentina (100 points, 11 tries) scored fewer points and tries than France (143 points, 15 tries). The other three semi-finalists are the top three points and try scoring teams at RWC 2011.
– France kept England scoreless in the first half of their quarter-final. It was the second time they had kept their opponents scoreless in the first half of an RWC knockout match. Only Australia (three times) have achieved this more often.
– Have waited 12 years since their last Rugby World Cup final appearance. They also waited 12 years between the first two (1987, 1999).

The venue

– Eden Park hosted five matches during RWC 1987, with New Zealand and France winning two matches each and Romania one.
– Eden Park will host 11 matches at RWC 2011. It has already hosted two Pool A matches, one match in each of the other three pools and two quarter-finals. It will also host both semi-finals, the bronze final and final.
– This match is Eden Park’s 13th RWC match, equalling the record held by Murrayfield.
– Wales have played two Tests at Eden Park, both against the All Blacks. They lost 33-12 in 1969 and 54-9 in 1988.
– France have played 12 Tests at Eden Park, winning five of them, including two against the All Blacks. Their 42 per cent win rate at the ground is the best of any nation other than New Zealand.
– France have played five RWC matches at the venue. In 1987 they won a pool match against Zimbabwe and a quarter-final against Fiji and lost the final against New Zealand. In 2011 they lost their pool match against New Zealand and won their quarter-final against England.
– France were the last team to beat New Zealand at Eden Park, in July 1994.

The line-ups

– Wales have made one change to the line-up that beat Ireland for this semi-final. James Hook replaces the injured Rhys Priestland at fly half.
– Hook has won 12 of the 17 matches he has started for Wales at fly half. His last loss was this year’s Six Nations match against France. His last loss before that was against South Africa in 2007.
– Gethin Jenkins will play his 14th RWC match to equal the Wales record held by Gareth Thomas.
– The 625 caps among the Wales starting XV is their third highest for a RWC match. Only their 728 caps against Australia at RWC 2007 and 665 against Fiji also in 2007 were higher. Wales lost both those matches.
– Sam Warburton is the only captain in the semi-finals to have led his team in all five of their RWC 2011 matches.
– At 23 years and 10 days old, Warburton is the youngest captain to lead a side in a RWC semi-final, breaking the record set by New Zealand’s Taine Randell in their 1999 semi-final, also against France.
– George North, at 19 years and 165 days, becomes the youngest player to play in a RWC semi-final. Fellow Welshman Dai Young, at 19 years and 323 days, was the only other teenager to do so when he played in the 1987 semi-final against New Zealand.
– Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau start their sixth match of the tournament, the only Wales players to do so.
– Jonathan Davies has scored a try in his last three RWC matches. Sonny Parker set the Wales record when he scored in four consecutive RWC matches across the 2003 and 2007 editions and Shane Williams equalled this at RWC 2007. The RWC record for scoring tries in consecutive matches is five, held by Alan Whetton (NZL) in 1987 and Jonah Lomu (NZL) in 1999.
– Shane Williams, Wales’ top try scorer and the third highest in Test history, has scored only two tries against France in his nine Tests against Les Bleus. That is his equal-lowest return against a Six Nations team.
– France have named their first unchanged starting line-up of RWC 2011.
– It is their sixth unchanged starting line-up in RWC history. Four of their previous five unchanged line-ups were also for knockout matches and all four resulted in defeats – three of them by at least 17 points.
– The 687 caps among France’s starting XV is their most since the RWC 2007 semi-final defeat to England and their fourth most capped line-up ever.
– At an average age of 29 years and 305 days, this is France’s second-oldest RWC line-up. Only the team that faced Argentina in the pool phase of RWC 2007 was older at 30 years and 288 days.
– Imanol Harinordoquy becomes the fifth France player to play in three RWC semi-finals and the ninth player from all teams. He is the only player left at RWC 2011 to have played in two previous World Cup semi-finals.
– Vincent Clerc’s six tries at RWC 2011 is equal-most with England’s Chris Ashton. His record of 11 RWC tries is third to New Zealand duo Jonah Lomu (15) and Doug Howlett (13) on the all-time list.
– Clerc is also one of only five players to have played every minute of his team’s five RWC 2011 matches. Three of the other four are also still in the tournament – New Zealand’s Jerome Kaino, and Australian pair Quade Cooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper. England’s Ashton is the only one of the quintet to have lost in the quarter-finals.
– Jean-Baptiste Poux and Aurélien Rougerie will play their 16th RWC matches, equalling Fabien Pelous. Raphaël Ibañez is the only France player with more RWC matches, having played in 18.

Sunday the 16th …

New Zealand v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland – 10:00

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams

Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom; 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu
Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Rob Horne

Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens and Romain Poite

Head-to-head

– Australia and New Zealand have played 142 Test matches. The All Blacks have won 96 matches, the Wallabies 41 and there have been five draws.
– The All Blacks have outscored the Wallabies by 850 points across the 142 Tests.
– Australia also recognise 24 matches played by New South Wales against New Zealand XVs in the 1920s as Tests.
– New Zealand have won 49 of the Tests played in New Zealand.
– The teams have met at the RWC twice before, both times in semi-finals. Australia won the RWC 1991 semi-final 16-6 and the RWC 2003 match 22-10.
– Australia have won two of the last three matches between these teams. Prior to that, New Zealand had won 10 matches in a row and 16 of the previous 18.
– Australia last beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2001, 23-15 at Dunedin.
– None of the Wallabies has played in a win against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.
– Ten of Australia’s match-day 22 were not born the last time the Wallabies beat the All Blacks at Eden Park.
– Richie McCaw plays against Australia for the 26th time, which breaks the All Black record he shared with Mils Muliaina.
– McCaw shares the All Black record for most tries against the Wallabies (eight). Ma’a Nonu has seven tries against Australia.

Australia

– Second in the IRB World Rankings having regained that position after their quarter-final win against South Africa. Will gain the top ranking for the first time if they win this semi-final.
– Have won 32 RWC matches and have scored 1396 RWC points and 179 RWC tries. They are second behind only New Zealand in all three categories.
– Are one of four teams (along with England, France and New Zealand) to have progressed to the quarter-finals at every RWC.
– Have played in three RWC finals, equal-most with England.
– Have kept their opposition from scoring a try in a RWC record 17 matches, four more than South Africa who are second-best.
– Have kept the opposition from scoring a try in a RWC record seven knockout matches, two more than South Africa who are second-best.
– Have won 10 RWC knockout matches, more than any other team.
– Are undefeated against Tri Nations opposition in knockout matches having beaten New Zealand in two semi-finals and South Africa in a semi-final and quarter-final.
– Have lost two RWC knockout matches after leading at half-time, both against England. New Zealand are the only other team to have done it more than once (two losses against France).
– Have two players (Quade Cooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper) who have played every minute of all five RWC 2011 matches. They are the only semi-finalist with more than one player to do so.

New Zealand

– Ranked No.1 in the world, a position they have held more than all other nations combined.
– Have scored 1,984 RWC points, 588 more than second-placed Australia.
– Have scored 270 RWC tries, 91 more than second-placed Australia.
– Have won 35 RWC matches, three more than second-placed Australia.
– Are the only team to finish first in their pool at every RWC.
– Are one of four teams (along with England, France and Australia) to have progressed to the quarter-finals at every RWC.
– Have progressed to the semi-finals on five occasions, equal-most with France.
– Along with France, are the only teams to have lost multiple RWC semi-finals.
– Have lost two knockout matches after leading at half-time, both against France. Australia are the only other team to have done it more than once (both losses were against England).
– New Zealand have scored at least one try in their past 94 tests and in 100 of the 101 tests coached by Graham Henry.
– Graham Henry coaches a team in a Rugby World Cup match for the 15th time, breaking Bernard Laporte’s (FRA) record. Henry coached Wales in their four matches at RWC 1999 and the All Blacks in five matches at RWC 2007 and six at RWC 2011.
– Graham Henry is the only person to coach 100 Tests for a major nation in the professional era. His 85 per cent winning record coaching New Zealand is the best for any coach of a major nation in the professional era. His predecessor John Mitchell’s record of 82.1 per cent is the only other above 80 per cent. Henry also coached 34 Tests for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions.
– New Zealand have lost to only South Africa, Australia and France during Henry’s reign and have a winning record against all three.
– New Zealand have won their last 15 Test matches at home, a winning streak that goes back more than two years, since South Africa beat them 32-29 in Hamilton on 12 September 2009.
– Under Graham Henry, New Zealand have lost only three home Test matches, against South Africa (twice) and France.

The venue

– Eden Park hosted five matches during RWC 1987, with New Zealand and France winning two matches each and Romania one.
– Eden Park will host 11 matches at RWC 2011. It has already hosted two Pool A matches, one match in each of the other three pools and two quarter-finals. It will also host both semi-finals, the bronze final and final.
– This match is Eden Park’s 14th RWC match, breaking the record held by Murrayfield.
– New Zealand have played four Rugby World Cup matches at Eden Park, two at RWC 1987 and three at RWC 2011, winning by a minimum of 20 points each time. Their closest matches were the 29-9 victory against France in the final of Rugby World Cup 1987 and their 37-17 victory against the French three weeks ago.
– The All Blacks have won their last 25 Tests at Eden Park since an 18-18 draw against South Africa in August 1994.
– France were the last team to beat New Zealand at Eden Park, in July 1994. That match is also New Zealand’s only defeat at Eden Park in the past 25 years, since Australia won there in September 1986.
– The All Blacks have collected 23 wins from as many attempts at Eden Park in the professional era (1996-2011).
– New Zealand will play five matches at Eden Park at RWC 2011, equalling Scotland’s record of playing five matches at Murrayfield at Rugby World Cups 1991 and 1999.
– Australia have played 24 matches at Eden Park. Their first match was a loss against a New Zealand XV in 1925 and their most recent match was a loss against Ireland, which was also their only RWC match at the venue. The other matches were all against the All Blacks, with Australia winning four of the 22.
– Australia’s last win at Eden Park was a 22-9 victory against the All Blacks in September 1986.
– Australia have lost their 13 Tests at Eden Park (nine in the professional era) since 1986.
– Eight of Australia’s 12 losses against New Zealand at Eden Park since 1986 have been by at least 10 points. During that 12-match streak, the Wallabies have scored 20 points in a match only twice and have restricted the All Blacks to less than 20 points only once (a 6-3 loss in 1991).
– Dan Vickerman plays his seventh Test at Eden Park, setting an Australian record, while Adam Ashley-Cooper plays in his sixth Eden Park international, which is the most by an Australian back. Rocky Elsom also plays his sixth Eden Park Test.
– Rocky Elsom’s 10 points at the venue is the most among the Wallabies squad. Only five of the Australian squad have scored points at the Auckland venue, with four having scored tries only. James O’Connor is the only one to have kicked any points.

The line-ups

– Australia have named a side pending Kurtley’s Beale fitness. If Beale plays, the Wallabies will go in to the match with an unchanged line-up for just the fourth time in their RWC history. The first three unchanged line-ups were all for knockout matches – the 1991 and 1999 finals and the 2003 semi-final – and all resulted in Australian victories.
– If Beale does not play, then Adam Ashley-Cooper will play at full back, with Anthony Faingaa moving to outside centre and Rob Horne replacing Faingaa on the bench. The only other change from their quarter-final win against South Africa, which does not rely on Beale’s fitness, sees Rob Simmons replace 99-Test veteran Nathan Sharpe as the replacement second row.
– Regardless of whether Beale plays, the Wallabies starting XV will contain 14 of the 15 players that started their last match against the All Blacks, the Tri Nations decider at Brisbane in August this year. James O’Connor is the only player who did not play in that match and either Beale or Faingaa will be the player missing from this XV.
– If Beale plays, Australia will have the same back line that started their last Test at Eden Park, against New Zealand in August this year. The only changes compared to that team are Dan Vickerman at second row rather than Nathan Sharpe and Radike Samoa at number 8 rather than Ben McCalman.

– New Zealand have made three changes to the side that defeated Argentina in their quarter-final.
– Aaron Cruden, who came on as a replacement against the Pumas, replaces the injured Colin Slade at fly half, Israel Dagg returns from injury to replace the injured Mils Muliaina at full back and Richard Kahui returns from injury to play left wing, with Sonny Bill Williams returning to the bench. Andy Ellis replaces Jimmy Cowan on the bench as back-up scrum half while Stephen Donald joins the bench as the reserve fly half.
– If Donald comes on as a replacement, he will become the fourth player to make his RWC debut in a semi-final and the first since South Africa’s Henry Honiball in the RWC 1999 semi-final against Australia.
– This is New Zealand’s most settled RWC line-up since their last three matches of RWC 2003, where they made one, zero and one change respectively.
– The 694 caps earned by New Zealand’s starting XV is their third highest for a RWC match, falling behind the 727 of the XV that beat France in their RWC 2011 pool match and the All Blacks record of 769 earned by the side that defeated Argentina last weekend.
– Eleven of New Zealand’s starting XV also started the All Blacks’ last match against the Wallabies, their loss in the Tri Nations decider in Brisbane in August. Jerome Kaino is the only forward present that did not play in Brisbane, while the new backline faces are Cruden, Kahui and Dagg.
– Eight of those 11 players also started the last match between the two teams in New Zealand, at Eden Park, also in August, including two of New Zealand’s three try scorers that day, Keven Mealamu and Ma’a Nonu.
– Nonu has crossed the try-line in New Zealand’s past three matches against Australia. His seven tries against the Wallabies put him just one behind Richie McCaw, who shares the record for most All Black tries against Australia.
– McCaw breaks the All Black record for most Test starts he shared with Muliaina. This will be his 96th Test cap in the starting XV.
– Four of the All Blacks’ match-day 22 played in New Zealand’s last RWC match against Australia, the 22-10 RWC 2003 semi-final defeat in Sydney. Mealamu and McCaw will again start, while Brad Thorn starts this match having come on as a replacement in 2003 and Ali Williams is on the bench here having started in 2003.
– McCaw plays his 15th RWC match, leaving Sean Fitzpatrick (17) as the only All Black with more RWC matches. Ali Williams can join McCaw if he comes on as a replacement.
– Brad Thorn is the oldest All Black to play at the Rugby World Cup. He advances his record to 36 years and 255 days by starting this match.
– Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith play in the centres together for the 34th time, extending their All Blacks record.
– Keven Mealamu plays his 91st Test, moving to within one of Sean Fitzpatrick’s All Black record for a hooker.

The referee

– Craig Joubert referees his sixth match of RWC 2011. He is the first official to take charge of six matches at one RWC

I will be doing an interview on e-tv at around 08h30 in the build up to the match, then hitting the press box at Eden Park to Tweet on the atmosphere and vibe at the game – @tanklanning

I have gone with Wales by 12 and the All Blacks by 4 …

Tank

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