Mo­ri­arty: I thought high tackle had ended our World Cup hopes

Wales for­ward feared worst in semi-fi­nal No8 will em­u­late fa­ther Paul against Spring­boks

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup - Tom Cary

in Tokyo

Rugby World Cup his­tory will be made on Sunday when Ross Mo­ri­arty lines up for Wales against South Africa in their World Cup semi-fi­nal clash in Yoko­hama.

Thirty-two years ago, Mo­ri­arty’s fa­ther Paul and un­cle Dick also played in a World Cup semi-fi­nal, against New Zealand in Bris­bane, mean­ing it will be the first time that a fa­ther-and-son com­bi­na­tion (not to men­tion an un­cle, fa­ther and son com­bi­na­tion) have made the last four of rugby’s show­piece event.

Mo­ri­arty is well aware of how close he came to missing out. How close Wales came to missing out.

Had ref­eree Jaco Peyper reached for the red, rather than the yel­low card af­ter he went in high on Gael Fickou in Oita last Sunday, Mo­ri­arty might have been the vil­lain of the piece rather than France lock Sebastien Vahaamahin­a, who was even­tu­ally sent off.

The Drag­ons No8 had been on the pitch for only 90 sec­onds, hav­ing re­placed the in­jured Josh Na­vidi, when the in­ci­dent oc­curred. And when Peyper de­cided to re­view the in­ci­dent with the help of the tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial, you could see Mo­ri­arty’s face turn white.

He was in­stantly trans­ported back to 2011 and Sam War­bur­ton’s dis­missal 18 min­utes into Wales’s semi-fi­nal against France. Surely his­tory would not re­peat it­self?

“I was like: ‘F---’ – ex­cuse my lan­guage,” Mo­ri­arty ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day when asked for his thoughts dur­ing those ago­nis­ing few sec­onds. “I was just think­ing, ‘Please, please don’t be a red’. I knew how bad that would be for the team. I’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion be­fore and it’s not a nice feel­ing.”

Mo­ri­arty, speak­ing to the me­dia in Wales’s team ho­tel in Tokyo, in­sisted it was ac­ci­den­tal. “I never go into a game in­tend­ing to do any­thing that would get me a card or put the team at any risk of not win­ning. But it was def­i­nitely a big mo­ment,” he said.

“I had only been on for 90 sec­onds and I was think­ing to my­self: ‘If he gives me a red card this is the end of me.’”

Af­ter Vahaamahin­a was sent off for an elbow to the jaw of Aaron Wain­wright, who else but Mo­ri­arty should pop up with the game’s win­ning try.

He grinned at the mem­ory of that ef­fort yes­ter­day. “I was run­ning to­wards the ball and just think­ing, ‘I can’t mess this up’,” he re­called. “I didn’t even want to reach out in case some­one came from nowhere and kicked the ball out of my hands. So I just landed on my head first and got the ball un­der my chest to make sure no one could come in and get it.” the team ho­tel. Wales are train­ing this morn­ing at the Prince Chichibu Me­mo­rial Ground, named for the late Em­peror Hiro­hito’s brother, who was ap­par­ently a big fan of rugby.

It was a slid­ing doors mo­ment all right. And one of which Mo­ri­arty in­tends to take full ad­van­tage on Sunday.

Na­vidi’s in­jury has meant a bit of a reshuf­fle in the Wales squad with Cardiff Blues winger Owen Lane fly­ing to Ja­pan yes­ter­day.

The se­lec­tion of a back, rather than another back rower, is a vote of con­fi­dence in Mo­ri­arty. And now he wants to prove his coach’s faith is jus­ti­fied and, if pos­si­ble, to go one step fur­ther than his fa­ther and un­cle did in 1987.

Tony Gray’s team were ham­mered 49-6 by even­tual win­ners New Zealand, the great John Kir­wan and Buck Shelford both grab­bing braces. But both Paul (who played No 8) and Dick (who cap­tained Wales from the sec­ond row), will be there to urge him on.

“They are com­ing out on Thurs­day and will be stay­ing till Monday, so that makes it ex­tra spe­cial,” the Drag­ons No 8 said. “We all know rugby is quite a short ca­reer, but it’s going very fast now.

“I’m 26 next year. To be in­volved in a game like this is what I started play­ing the game for, even if I didn’t think much about it when I was younger.”

Af­ter tough pool games against Aus­tralia and Fiji, and a bru­tal quar­ter-fi­nal against France, there are some who be­lieve the sheer phys­i­cal­ity of South Africa, al­lied to what de­fence coach Shaun Ed­wards re­ferred to yes­ter­day as the Spring­boks’ “blow­torch speed on the edges”, may be too much for Wales.

Even their tem­per­a­ment has been called into ques­tion, with a video of France cap­tain Guil­hem Guirado emerg­ing yes­ter­day in which he tells his team in the dress­ing room af­ter the match that Wales were “s----ing their pants” all game, so over­whelmed were they.

Mo­ri­arty dis­missed those sug­ges­tions yes­ter­day, in­sist­ing that Wales would rel­ish the oc­ca­sion. Hav­ing been given a sec­ond chance, he cer­tainly will.

“I know what their for­wards thrive on, which is be­ing phys­i­cal,” Mo­ri­arty said. “That’s what I thrive on as well. Some play­ers go hid­ing when it gets tough, but I think I get bet­ter in those sit­u­a­tions.”

Let-off: Ross Mo­ri­arty es­caped with a yel­low card for his tackle on Gael Fickou

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