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'Emotive, passionate, surprising - that's the beauty of this sport': Sian Thomas on the fans of the World Cup

Credit: Sian Thomas

The morning after the night before. When celebrations turn to hangovers, and the post match party changes to the post-match analysis.

Wales win against France was not a pretty one, but as I keep hearing “a win is a win” and it got us our ticket to the semi-final.

Reflecting on the day, the amazing turn of events and the irony, there are a few standout moments that stick in my mind.

As I walked in to Oita Stadium I was immediately greeted by a ring of French people in the party spirit. A trumpet player wearing blue coordinating the crowd while a man was being bench pressed by blokes wearing berets.

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Before kick off I thought it was nothing more than fans enjoying the moment, but when the scoreboard read 12-0 in the first 10 minutes, I started to think “perhaps the French knew all along they could win this game!”

Head in hands, the thought on most Welsh people’s mind: we’re going home.

Aaron Wainwright’s superb try after gathering a loose ball was the only saving grace that clung on to Wales' dream to reach the next phase of this World Cup tournament.

But in the 50th minute - irony, fate and frankly an appalling show of sportsmanship saw French lock Sébastien Vahaamahina get sent off with a red card. A mirror image of the 2011 World Cup Semi-Final against France.

Welsh captain Sam Warburton (left) makes a dangerous tackle on French player Vincent Clerc in which he was subsequently sent off during the IRB Rugby World Cup Semi-Final between Wales and France at Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Credit: PA Images

Fast forward to the 73rd minute and I may as well have booked my seat home on a British Airways flight. It was 13-19 on the board and I’d reluctantly accepted I’d be leaving Japan the following day. The run was good while it lasted.

That’s until Tipuric brought home the bacon driving the ball forward after an astonishing turn over. Ross Moriarty finishing the deed - securing that must have try for Wales.

For those who watched the game on TV, the elated young woman hanging on to the barrier after the try was awarded is all of us really.

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Sure enough, Wales’ scrappy performance against a team that should have won will forever be a momentous day in rugby history. Even Warren Gatland admitted the better team lost.

Credit: PA Images

Outside the stadium and it was party on. Calon Lan and Hymns and Arias the soundtrack of choice.

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One of the first things I saw outside Oita Stadium was a man holding an enormous Welsh flag that read Caernarfon RFC.

Credit: PA Images

Singing at one of the outdoor bars was Ken who’d made the journey to Japan to watch his first ever World Cup abroad. Holding the fort amongst the youngsters of the group, you could tell how much this moment meant for him. To watch his team reach the semis for only the third time in our rugby history.

And then there were the French.

Credit: ITV News

Two men wearing berets and blue wigs righting the wrong of Sébastien Vahaamahina by shaking my hand and saying “Congratulations, we wish Wales a good semi-final."

And that’s the beauty of this sport, it’s emotive, passionate, surprising, but most importantly it has a way of bringing nations together.

Next up: Wales in a World Cup semi-final - for only the third ever time.

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