Wales v France: Five epic encounters

From storied Five Nations dust-ups to the dramatic 2011 World Cup semi-final, this weekend's quarter-final opponents have a memorable track record.

OITA, 17 Oct - Sunday's quarter-final between Wales and France will be only the second time they have met at the Rugby World Cup, but in 97 matches since 1908, Wales have won 50, France 44 and three have been drawn. 

From Paris to Auckland via Wembley Stadium, we take a look at five epic encounters between Wales and France ahead of the match in Oita.

France 10-25 Wales

Five Nations, Parc des Princes, Paris, 18 January, 1975

This game will be remembered for Graham Price's celebration after he marked his first appearance for his country with a stunning try at Parc des Princes.

Price was one of six players making their debut. It was also the first time the famous Pontypool front row of Price, Bobby Windsor and Tony "Charlie" Faulkner played together.

Steve Fenwick, Terry Cobner and wizard winger Gerald Davies all scored tries to give Wales a 17-7 lead at the interval. Scrum-half Gareth Edwards added another before up popped Price for that unforgettable moment as France launched a series of attacks on the Welsh line.

When an attack broke down about 20m from the Welsh line, second-row forward Geoff Wheel hacked on and Price, remarkably for a prop, set off in pursuit of the ball, kicking on just inside the French half.

Winger JJ Williams raced 70m to make a crucial challenge on a defender and as the ball popped up, Price caught it and plunged over after a lung-busting effort.

As Price threw the ball high into the Parisian air, commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith hailed: "They’ll never believe it in Pontypool."

Wales 0-51 France

Five Nations, Wembley Stadium, 5 April, 1998

France went to Wembley – Wales's temporary home while the Millennium Stadium was under construction – looking to claim their first-ever back-to-back Five Nations Grand Slam.

Wales, confident after wins over Scotland and Ireland, might as well have been back in Cardiff for all the resistance they put up as Pierre Villepreux's French side taught them a lesson in forward power and dazzling back play.

Fly-half Thomas Castaignede ran the show, linking up with centre Stephane Glas time and again to create havoc in the threadbare Welsh midfield and spark four first-half tries that put Les Bleus 29-0 up.

Wales went down to 13 men at one point but at least Colin Charvis and Stuart Davies could enjoy the masterclass from the comfort of the sin-bin.

France ran in three more tries after the break, including one for current assistant coach Fabien Galthie, to seal the double-Slam in style and condemn Wales to their biggest "home" defeat of all time.

France 35-43 Wales

Six Nations, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, 17 March, 2001

Wales have celebrated a few high-scoring wins in the French capital but this was the biggest, with outside-half Neil Jenkins scoring 28 points with a clean sweep of a try, three penalties, four conversions and two drop-goals, including the one pictured top.

Jenkins, who is on Wales's coaching staff in Japan, also celebrated the milestone of reaching 1,000 points for his country during a victory that then-coach Graham Henry hailed the best of his reign. The New Zealander said the second-half display was "magical".

Scrum-half Rob Howley scored a sensational long-range try with Wales trailing 19-9, after a charge by Scott Quinnell, who also got a try that day.

France responded to claw their way back into a 35-33 lead but Jenkins's drop-goal gave Wales the advantage again before Gareth Thomas charged down a kick and Dafydd James bagged a try to complete a famous win.

France 9-8 Wales

Rugby World Cup semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland, 15 October, 2011

Wales played with 14 men for over an hour after captain Sam Warburton, who had been one of the players of the tournament, was sent off in Auckland.

Warburton lifted Vincent Clerc off his feet with a big hit and then turned him in the air, the Frenchman crashing onto his back on the Eden Park turf. Many expected a yellow card, but referee Alain Rolland produced a red.

Wales still almost won the game with a defiant defensive display as they stopped France - who had lost twice in the pool stage - from crossing their line, their opponents having to rely on three Morgan Parra penalties.

Scrum-half Mike Phillips darted over for the game's only try with 23 minutes left, but outside-half Stephen Jones - part of Wales's coaching staff in Japan - hit the post with a difficult conversion.

Then full-back Leigh Halfpenny, part of the current squad, saw a long-range penalty fall agonisingly short right at the end of the game. Two earlier missed penalties from James Hook also proved costly.

"The 2011 game probably hurts still for the players involved," said Gatland after the victory over Uruguay on Sunday. "But it showed what this team all about. They never give up."

France 19-24 Wales

Six Nations, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, 1 February, 2019

A juggling George North sealed an incredible second-half comeback and launched Wales's campaign that would culminate in a third Grand Slam for head coach Warren Gatland under the Friday night lights at a rain-lashed Stade de France.

Wales were cut to shreds in the first-half by a French side reveling in the conditions with tries from Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget helping them to a 16-0 lead. Three missed kicks by Morgan Parra, however, would prove crucial.

Tomos Williams started the comeback with a try after half-time before a try from North, pouncing on a horrendous fumble by Huget on his own line, somehow gave Gatland's side a 17-16 lead.

Camille Lopez put the hosts ahead again but the momentum was with Wales and the winning score came courtesy of a moment of madness from French second-row Sebastien Vahaamahina. His reckless long pass was intercepted by North and the wing showed off his best handling skills as he raced clear for the crucial winning try.

"We’ve become a side that has forgotten how to lose," said Gatland, who had told his players at half-time that if they came back from 16 points down they would go on and win the Grand Slam. They duly did.

RNS ig/gl/sg/rl