Warren Gatland claimed the Irish referee Alain Rolland "ruined the match" and robbed Wales of "the destiny of an opportunity" to reach the World Cup final by sending off Sam Warburton in France's 9-8semi-final win at Eden Park.
France will contest their third final against either New Zealand or Australia in Auckland on Sunday. But the loss of Wales's captain Warburton to a first-half red card for a "tip" tackle on France's Vincent Clerc was slammed by Gatland.
"It warranted a yellow card – Sam let Clerc go, he didn't drive him into the ground," said Gatland, whose team were in their first semi-final since 1987. Wales's try-scorer, Mike Phillips, said: "It was the wrong decision completely. You put big hits in and people go up in the air – that's the way it is. France played up on it and itwas showmanship."
TV pundits Lawrence Dallaglio and Francois Pienaar agreed but France's coach, Marc Lièvremont, backed Rolland's decision under Law 10.4, which states: "It is dangerous play to lift a player from the ground and drop or drive that player into the ground". World Cup referee chiefs have been warning that such offences should bring a red card, even though Warburton dropping Clerc looked more accidental than intentional.
The 58,360 attendance at Eden Park was 3,000 fewer than the Welsh crowd who watched yesterday morning's match free on giant TV screens at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.