Wales were left contemplating a hollow feeling yesterday, knowing they had to somehow get themselves up for the third-place playoff on Friday while still believing they should be playing two nights later.

Defence coach Shaun Edwards fronted the media yesterday where, not surprisingly, the issue du jour was the red card brandished to captain Sam Warburton after 18 minutes.

Wales lost 9-8 to the disappointing French and referee Alain Rolland has predictably become the target of anger in the principality.

"It was not deliberate what Sam done," Edwards said. "I have seen it deliberate where you put your hand underneath, lift him and spin him, and I have had it done to myself and it is horrible. You know it is deliberate when you see someone put the hand underneath the crotch and spin him around and drop him to the floor and basically follow on yourself.

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"With Sam, it was a dominant hit as you expect. He was much more powerful than the guy he tackled and he ended up in a position that got him sent off.

"What happened with Sam, in speaking to him, was that he felt the guy was very light in his hands."

That was exactly what Warburton felt. Speaking at the post-match press conference, Warburton said he was gutted by the decision and that there had been no malicious intent on his part.

"It felt as soon as I hit him his body weight took control of what happened," Warburton said. "It was a normal tackle and next thing I know I was walking off into the stand."

The IRB yesterday moved to reiterate the laws around tip or spear tackling, which amounted to a tacit approval of Rolland's decision.

How they felt about the referee taking centre stage for a second high-profile knockout match in a week, thus detracting from the spectacle, is less clear.

"Regular directives to unions, match officials and judicial officers have been issued to reinforce the IRB's zero-tolerance stance regarding dangerous tackles and the promotion of player welfare," the statement read.

"The policy was again reiterated to team officials at a team managers' seminar in Auckland two weeks before the start of World Cup and during the tournament and there have been a number of other tip-tackle cases at the World Cup."

This was the only tip tackle, however, to have received the ultimate sanction.

Wales' coach Warren Gatland believed Rolland's biggest fault lay in his haste to wave the red.

"The thing that surprises me is that the reaction of the referee is instant and I thought an experienced referee at that stage would have said 'well, hang on a minute, let's bring my two touchies in, let's have a chat'," Gatland said.

"You would have thought they would have had a chance to have a look at the screen, see the replay and perhaps make a cool judgment. But it's just come out of the blue, quickly. We were discussing in the box what's happening and someone said 'he's off!'

"For an experienced referee to make such a quick decision in a semifinal of the World Cup, I just thought that decision ruined the semifinal."

The disappointment over Warburton's card aside, what Wales will really live to rue was that this game was there for the taking, even down to 14 men. Both James Hook and Stephen Jones missed simple shots for goal and Leigh Halfpenny had a long-range effort scrape under the bar.

With a welter of possession and territory they could not engineer a decent drop-goal attempt late in the match.

France offered nothing, but somehow it was enough. That's what will really stick in the craw.

"Sometimes in times like this it's really important to keep your dignity and actually probably not say what you feel inside," Edwards said.

"I think it's a travesty for the competition because clearly the team who should be playing on Sunday night isn't going to be."

The law

Law 10.4(j) reads: "Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play."

A directive was issued to all unions and match officials in 2009 emphasising the IRB's zero-tolerance stance towards dangerous tackles and reiterating the following instructions for referees:

The player is lifted and then forced or 'speared' into the ground (red card offence).

The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player's safety (red card offence).

For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles a yellow card or penalty may be considered sufficient.