Wales

Wales into Rugby World Cup semi-final with Ireland win

Wales are heading for their biggest game in 24 years after beating Ireland 22-10 to book a semi-final against France in the Rugby World Cup.

Thousands of fans woke early on Saturday to watch the Welsh team turn over their old rivals in New Zealand's capital, Wellington.

Rugby clubs and pubs throughout Wales opened early for the match.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said "all Wales" would be celebrating the "fantastic achievement".

Wales will now face France in the semi-final in Auckland next Saturday for a place in the final after they beat England 12-19.

Mr Jones said: "Congratulations to Wales for another excellent win and reaching the semi-finals of the world cup for the first time since the very first tournament and making such an early start for the supporters worthwhile.

'Superb effort'

"All of Wales will be celebrating and will be behind the players as they attempt to make history by reaching the final for the first time.

"Whatever happens from here on, it has been a fantastic achievement and superb effort from all the players and coaching staff," he said.

Image caption Jonathan Davies (right) celebrates with Jamie Roberts (centre) and Leigh Halfpenny

Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies were the try scorers in Saturday's victory over Ireland.

Wales held off the challenge of an Ireland side that topped Pool C to book their semi-final place.

Going into the game, Wales had only won two of their last five encounters against the Irish, and they last played them in the world cup in 1995, losing 23-24 in a pool match.

Wales last reached the semi-finals in 1987. Wales had knocked out England in the quarter-finals but were trounced by New Zealand in the semi-finals.

Mouth-watering

They went on to beat Australia in a third place play-off match 22-21.

Although Wales have won two Six Nations grand slams since their heroics at the 1987 world cup, their semi-final tie next week will be seen as their biggest game in nearly a quarter of a century.

Wales finished second behind South Africa in the world cup's pool matches, which set up a mouth-watering tie against Ireland.

With the exception of 1987, Wales last made the world cup quarter-finals in 2003 and 1999. Disappointing results in 1995, 1991 and 2007 saw them going out in the pool stages.

Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones also paid tribute to both Wales' football team after a 2-0 win over Switzerland in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign on Friday.

"Wales' great victory over Ireland this morning has made people across the nation very proud," he said.

"It was also great to see another football win for Wales last night from a team that's hopefully going to see many more successes in the coming years as they develop."

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