Don't blame the referee for ruining Saturday's semi-final: blame France coach Marc Lievremont and his negative tactics, writes ITV.com/rugbyworldcup editor Luke McLaughlin
Irish referee Alain Rolland has been accused of ruining Saturday's Rugby World Cup semi-final between Wales and France by sending off Welsh captain Sam Warburton.
By unbalancing the teams in such a crucial and high-profile match he denied rugby fans an exciting spectacle and robbed Wales of a final place. That's the theory.
But instead of pointing fingers at the referee, shouldn't we focus on the negative France tactics which largely starved the game of creativity?
France coach Marc Lievremont's approach was the main factor that led to a low-scoring grind of a game. It was a courageous and brilliant performance by Wales and in many ways they deserved more than they got, but the referee shouldn't be blamed for that.
France were mainly terrible, except when it came to the line-outs, scrums (where Wales had lost their main weapon in tighthead prop Adam Jones) and the determination of their tackling.
It is a testament to the danger of the Welsh team that France were so conservative. The power of Welsh ball carrying terrified France (even with 14 men), as did the power of the Welsh defence. So Les Bleus were happy to let their line-out, scrum and defence do the talking.
Lievremont admits his men were unnerved by Wales having a man sent off. Rather than opening up and trying to stretch the understrength Wales defence, they tightened up, kicked for territory and strangled any life out of the match. It worked - but only just.
France seemed worried about the humiliation of losing to a 14-man team, which made them play even tighter than before the red card. If they'd have shown even a hint of traditional French flair and creativity it could still have been a superb game, even with Warburton off the pitch.
No-one knows for sure what the shape of the match might otherwise have been. People endlessly say France are unpredictable - but those same people seem sure Wales would have won the match if Warburton stayed on. It's impossible to be sure.
As for the red card decision, Warburton did not deserve it, but then again Rolland was only following orders from Paddy O'Brien, the IRB referees' chief. The law states that 'dropping or driving' a player on to the ground, so that his head or upper body hits the floor, is dangerous play.
O'Brien has issued a directive to referees that this offence merits a red card. Rolland had no choice: or rather, no choice but to disregard the laws of rugby and explicit instructions from his boss.
There was no malice in what Warburton did, no deliberate attempt at a spear tackle or intent to cause injury, but the fact is that he dropped Vincent Clerc on his head, and that is dangerous regardless of intent.
Aside from all of that it's worth remembering that Rolland made some bizarre decisions in the remainder of the match, one in particular that handed Wales a chance to win.
His decision to penalise France prop Nicolas Mas at a ruck late on - instead of penalising Wales for playing the ball on the floor - was inexplicable. But it gave Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny the chance to kick what may have proved a decisive penalty.
Wales wasted chances for 11 place-kicking points - three penalties and one conversion - plus missing drop-goal attempts. They had the territory and they had the chances. In such a tight game that is wasteful in the extreme.
As Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins predicted last week, the match was likely to come down to kicking, and so it proved. James Hook had a bad day at fly-half, his early penalty aside, and it was a probably a mistake to prefer him to the more experienced Stephen Jones in a game that always promised to be tight.
Referee Rolland is well used to criticism by now so it's unlikely to affect him when he carries out his assistant refereeing duties next Sunday. He refereed the South Africa v England final at Stade de France in 2007.
While many people remember Mark Cueto's correctly disallowed try for England, Rolland's failure to yellow card Schalk Burger for killing the ball by hitting a ruck from the side earlier in that same move was mystifying - and potentially cost England the match and a World Cup.
But that is history and so is Saturday's match. Wales have earned enormous respect and admiration at this Rugby World Cup - and with coach Warren Gatland, captain Warburton and their talented young players they have a platform to build something special. The beauty of sport is that you always get another go and that is what Wales must focus on.