The French are revolting. So revolting that Sébastien Vahaamahina was given a straight red card in their 2019 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match against Wales.
What he was thinking – if he was thinking at all – only he knows.
First, a grab around the neck and then a swift elbow to the face saw the Clermont lock given his marching orders in a big old scrap of a match. And while it looked for a long time that France might hang on and win with 14 men, it all went to hell in a handcart in the final five minutes.
It’s been a messy Rugby World Cup, which has already broken the tournament red card record.
France’s red card was the first ever in a RWC QF. But not the first in the KOs of a RWC.
On just two previous occasions a team had been given a red card in a RWC knockout match. Both those times it was Wales at the receiving end.
Huw Richards was sent off in the semi-final against New Zealand in 1987 while Sam Warburton was carded against France in 2011 – also in a semi-final. Wales lost on both occasions.
Yellow cards have been more common and Wales earned their first in a RWC QF when Ross Moriarty was sent to the sin bin against France (we did say it was scrappy). That so very nearly proved to be costly for the Six Nations champions. But he redeemed himself, scoring what ultimately proved to be winning try in the 74th minute.
Yellow cards, in their current form with players sent to the bin, made its first appearance at the 2003 World Cup, but there’s been a fair whack of them dished out in the knockouts of World Cups since. A few teams share the (dis)honour of topping the list for most yellow cards in World Cup knock outs with Argentina, France and New Zealand all having picked up four along the way.
Red and yellow cards in RWC knockout matches
RWC KO matches: Yellow cards by country
Data source: ESPNScrum/World Rugby.
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Antoinette is a recovering journalist, having written for Sports Illustrated, The Guardian, Daily Maverick and others. She has won multiple SAB Journalist of the Year awards, across a variety of categories. She thinks it’s strange writing about herself in the third person, unless she’s playing as herself in The Sims…which she’s been doing for over 20 years.