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France to face Wales in World Cup semis as England and Ireland exit

October 8, 2011 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
France fullback Maxime Medard scores a first-half try against England at Auckland's Eden Park.
France fullback Maxime Medard scores a first-half try against England at Auckland's Eden Park.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • France end England's World Cup hopes with 19-12 win in quarterfinals
  • Les Bleus avenged 2007 semifinal loss to England on home soil
  • Victory sets up semifinal clash with Wales, who defeat Ireland 22-10
  • Group C winners suffered first defeat of the tournament in New Zealand

(CNN) -- France's reputation as rugby's Jekyll and Hyde team was reaffirmed on Saturday as Marc Lievremont's inconsistent side bounced back from two defeats to eliminate England and reach the World Cup semifinals.

Les Bleus avenged their 2007 semi defeat by the English on home soil with a 19-12 victory in Auckland, setting up a last-four clash with Wales -- who went through after beating Celtic neighbors Ireland 22-10.

With the other half of the drawing pitting hosts New Zealand against Argentina, and world champions South Africa versus Australia -- both games are on Sunday -- there could potentially be a repeat of the inaugural 1987 final when the All Blacks beat France.

Coach Lievremont will be replaced by Philippe Saint-Andre after the tournament, but he has the chance to help France to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time.

His team lost to New Zealand and Tonga in the group stage, but roared to a 16-0 halftime lead at Eden Park as wing Vincent Clerc and fullback Maxime Medard crossed for tries, while Dimitri Yachvili kicked two penalties.

Irish rugby team a unifying force

England, the 2003 champions, rallied with second-half tries to fullback Ben Foden and wing Mark Cueto but a drop-goal by Francois Trinh-Duc in between those scores kept France safely ahead.

"You can't give a good team like France 16 points of a start. We had chances in the second half but they deserved to win," said England manager Martin Johnson, a World Cup winner as a player eight years ago.

France captain Thierry Dusautoir was glad to put the nightmare of the shock Tonga defeat behind him.

"We didn't want to go out like this. We wanted to show how we can play rugby," he said.

"I think we did it well. It was a great start for us and we are going to enjoy this victory. Now we need to keep it up and focus on the next game."

The French will take on Wales at Eden Park next Saturday after Warren Gatland's team handed Ireland a first defeat of the tournament to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1987.

They have no baggage and there's no fear factor ... We've worked so hard in the last three, four months. We aren't ready to go home yet
Wales coach Warren Gatland

The Group D runners-up scored three tries to one in Wellington as Ireland failed to capitalize on a wealth of first-half possession and crashed out at the last-eight stage for the fifth successive time.

Veteran winger Shane Williams put Wales ahead with a third-minute try that young flyhalf Rhys Priestland converted for a 10-3 lead at the break. Ronan O'Gara kicked Ireland's only points with a 24th-minute penalty before Leigh Halfpenny replied in kind just before the half hour.

Ireland leveled five minutes after the interval as O'Gara converted a try by wing Keith Earls, but Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips dotted down in the 51st minute and center Jonathan Davies made it safe on 64.

"We spent a lot of time in that first half in their 22 and we only came up with three points in the half," Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said.

"It hurts a bit when you're going in at halftime having the opportunities and knocking on the door, but not really getting any points out of the territory.

"We needed to deliver a performance similar to the one against Australia or the one against Italy last week. We didn't do that today, we knocked on way too much ball."

Gatland backed his young team to go further in the tournament.

"They have no baggage and there's no fear factor," Gatland said. "We are in New Zealand and not in the bubble of Wales and listening to any of the negativity that is sometimes generated back home.

"We've worked so hard in the last three, four months. We aren't ready to go home yet."

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