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Wales captain sent off in World Cup semifinal

Updated: October 15, 2011, 04:57

AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Sam Warburton was sent off early in the Rugby World Cup semifinal Saturday, leaving Wales with 14 men and without a captain for more than an hour against France.

Warburton, one of the form players of the tournament, was red carded in the 18th minute by referee Alain Rolland for a dangerous, lifting tackle on French winger Vincent Clerc.

Bidding to reach the World Cup final for the first time, it was a severe setback for Wales after it had already lost veteran prop Adam Jones after 10 minutes with a knee injury.

All red cards issued at the World Cup lead to an automatic judical hearing.

Warburton, who turned 23 last week, was awarded the Wales captaincy by coach Warren Gatland shortly before the World Cup began when hooker Matthew Rees was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.

Though his appointment was seen as a surprise by Welsh fans, he made an immediate impact on the captaincy, leading the team with a quiet intensity, more by example than by words.

His performances as an openside flanker throughout the World Cup have been of a regularly high standard, earning comparison with New Zealand's Richie McCaw and Australia's David Pocock, the best players in that position.

Warburton has always been a powerful tackler and a physical presence in loose play. He caught Clerc on Saturday trying to find a gap on the narrow side of a breakdown, hit the lightly-framed French winger low down, lifting him then dropping him on his back.

Rugby's rules around lifting tackles require a player who has raised an opponent off the ground in a tackle to ensure he is safely returned to the ground.

Warburton is the 16th player to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup match and the second at the current tournament after Samoa fullback Paul Williams. Williams was contentiously dismissed for striking during his team's pool match against South Africa.

The only other Welsh player to have been shown a red card at a World Cup is lock Huw Richards, who was sent off in the semifinal loss to New Zealand on the same ground in 1987.

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