6N: France and Ireland overcome red cards to win

PARIS (AP) — France lock Paul Willemse looks set to miss his team’s Six Nations title decider after being sent off against Wales on Saturday for making contact with an opponent's eye.

Willemse’s act against Wales prop Wyn Jones was caught on video and referee Luke Pearce didn’t hesitate to brandish a red card, the second in the tournament on Saturday and the fourth this year.

In Dublin, Ireland center Bundee Aki was sent off for the second time in his international career as they beat England 32-18.

In a stand-up tackle, Aki’s shoulder made contact with the head of England No. 8 Billy Vunipola and referee Mathieu Raynal decided there was no mitigating factors to reduce the sanction from a red card.

Willemse’s indiscipline in the 68th minute, with France trailing 30-20, jeopardized his team’s chance of overcoming Wales.

But his departure raised France’s desperation and sharpened its focus and it scored tries in the 77th and 82nd minutes to steal victory by 32-30, deny Wales a Grand Slam, and stay alive in the title chase. France plays Scotland on Friday in Paris with the title on the line.

France played with 14 men for the entire last quarter after prop Mohamed Haouas was sin-binned. Haouas was previously the last Frenchman to be red-carded, against Scotland in the Six Nations a year ago.

Wales’ hopes of holding out were undermined by the sin-binnings of No. 8 Taulupe Faletau in the 72nd and fullback Liam Williams in the 73rd, leaving them to finish with 13 men.

They were the first cards — yellow or red — against Wales in 16 matches in the Six Nations dating to 2018.

At Lansdowne Road, Ireland had enough of a lead against England to handle losing Aki, who shook his head as he walked off in the 64th minute with sympathy from teammates. Ireland was leading and dominating 26-6 at the time.

There have been only six red cards in Ireland’s history, and Aki has two of them after being sent off for a similar tackle against Samoa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He was also the second Irish sent marching in this Six Nations after flanker Peter O’Mahony against Wales last month for a reckless charge into a ruck hit the head of prop Tomas Francis.

Scotland prop Zander Fagerson was sent off a week later, also against Wales and also for a dangerous charge into a ruck that hit the head of Wyn Jones.

Also on Saturday, Italy was yellow-carded three times in losing to Scotland 52-10 at Murrayfield.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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