France’s Dupont has facial fracture but not out of World Cup: federation

France’s scrum-half and captain Antoine Dupont (C) is tackled by Namibia’s hooker Louis van der Westhuizen (L) during the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between France and Namibia at the Stade de Velodrome in Marseille, southern France on September 21, 2023. AFP

France captain Antoine Dupont sustained a facial fracture in the record victory over Namibia, but has not yet been ruled out of the World Cup, the French federation announced Friday.

“Specialised surgical advice was requested to assess how long he will be unavailable for,” added the federation.

France, who ran in 14 tries in a record 96-0 victory over Namibia on Thursday, are scheduled to play their final Pool A match against Italy in Lyon on October 6.

Media reports said Dupont would be sidelined for a month, meaning the influential scrum-half would miss not only the host nation’s game against Italy, but also the World Cup quarter-finals on the weekend of October 14-15.

Dupont was forced off the field at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome in the 46th minute following a clash of heads with Namibia skipper Johan Deysel in a clumsy tackle.

Deysel was initially handed a yellow card, later rightly upgraded to red, although Namibia coach Allister Coetzee described it as an “unfortunate accident”.

Dupont, 26, who is yet to lose in a France team he has skippered on home soil in 14 Tests, was immediately taken to hospital for scans on his injury.

France kicked off their World Cup with a morale-boosting 27-13 tournament-opening win over New Zealand before a largely second-string side laboured past Uruguay 27-12.

Victory, but no party

Prop Cyril Baille said Dupont’s injury had completely overshadowed a dominant French performance over a Namibian team ranked 22nd in the world and yet to win a World Cup match after 25 matches in seven tournament appearances.

“We know how important he is in the squad, what he brings,” said Baille. “When you look at the images, it’s a pretty violent impact. It tarnished the evening somewhat, there’s a lot of stress.

“Of course we’re happy with the scoreline, but it wasn’t a party in the changing room after that.”

Flanker Francois Cros, like Baille a Toulouse teammate of Dupont, said that if Dupont’s injury turned out to be serious, “it would obviously have an impact on him and on us”.

“Watching the replay, we knew the decision the referee would make. But we had no idea about Toto’s (Antoine Dupont’s) condition. We didn’t know if he was going off as a precaution or if he was really hurt until the end of the match.”

Cros added: “We still have some experienced nines who can take over.”

Lyon’s Baptiste Couilloud came on for Dupont and was full of running as he scored a try of his own, almost with his first touch, as he ensured the French team refound their rhythm after a raft of replacements.

The third scrum-half in the 33-man squad is Bordeaux-Begles’ Maxime Lucu, who won the man-of-the-match award in France’s second pool match against Uruguay, bossing the team sufficiently in the second-half to victory over the South Americans.

Galthie insisted in post-match comments that questions on whether Dupont should have been taken off at half-time of a game France were clearly going to win were a moot point.

“What do you want me to say? You can’t take 14 players off at half-time. Our plan was to bring off one, three and five at half-time, then the rest at the 55th minute,” he said.

“The aim was to give everyone some game-time and not sit back for a month. The players wanted and needed to play.

“Our next match is in 15 days. We’ll take stock of everyone’s condition and quickly put together a team,” Galthie said.

“The training cycle is already scheduled. We’ll stay here, have three days off and then start another week of training. We’re no longer preparing, we’re developing certain areas. And in the week leading to the Italy game, we’ll focus on our opponents.”

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