Rugby Union: Discipline and dignity lost on a grand scale

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The Independent Online
HYPNOTHERAPISTS in years to come will have to put Welsh fans under a very deep trance in order to drag out the trauma of their humiliation at Wembley. Forget the team's feelings. A nation has been traumatised.

It was the day a herd of Welshmen lost their heads, and consequently the match. On the way they tried to take their opponents' heads with them, if the frequency of high tackles on Frenchmen was anything to go by.

Despite the one-sidedness of the game the atmosphere was charged as both sides hammered into each other. The importance of this head-to-head could not be underplayed as France went for their first back-to-back Grand Slams.

Discipline, though, is vital and while a tense France were not perfect, it was Wales who lost their presence of mind at critical moments throughout the match.

In the third minute after Wales hooker Garin Jenkins went in high on a Frenchman and Gareth Thomas subsequently landed a punch on the victim of the high tackle just for good measure, the die was cast. Such behaviour served merely to ignite the volatile mixture of the game. That early moment of indiscipline prompted the penalty that earned the line-out that led to the try that France scored.

The Australian referee Peter Marshall added feathers to the tarred Welsh a few minutes later when Stuart Davies and Colin Charvis were lectured to and then conceded a penalty for tussling with Olivier Magne. Television replays indicated that Magne was the guilty party for attempting to head- butt Charvis, and all Davies was doing was trying to separate the combatants.

The French got away with their own moments of madness, but Wales went steadily to pieces, their discipline cast to the blustery winds around Wembley. When they weren't losing the ball when going forward they were missing crucial tackles, or wasting good position with poor passes.

It did not stop. The transgressions came thick and fast. Just after Jean- Luc Sadourny's second stunning try, Neil Boobyer, the late replacement for Allan Bateman in the centre, was penalised for a late tackle on the brilliant French full-back.

And it got worse. When Rob Appleyard took out Thomas Castaignede shortly before the interval he, like his two back row colleagues Charvis and Stuart Davies, was shown a yellow card.

France lock Fabien Pelous belatedly got into the referee's bad books but was not shown a yellow. And all the while the superlative French backs were tearing through the soft centre of the Welsh midfield, which had been robbed of two of the hardest threequarters in the world, Scott Gibbs and Bateman; the replacements Leigh Davies and Boobyer both happened to have a bad day at the office. So, for that matter, did a number of their team-mates. And outside-half Neil Jenkins was left pointless for the first time in a long while in a Test and still needs six more to reach the magic 600.

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