French rugby fears it has flushed the best opportunity in its history to win the Rugby World Cup in the most irrelevant chapter of the novel. Antoine Dupont suffered a facial fracture this Friday in the most unbalanced duel of the tournament, his national team’s 96-0 victory over Namibia. The great talent of the host, voted best player in the world in 2021, left the field at the beginning of the second half in tears and his coach, Fabien Galthié, left the Marseille hospital where his pupil was treated with a funeral face. after three thirty in the morning.
France led 54-0 at halftime when Dupont suffered a painful head-to-head collision with Namibian captain Johan Deysel. Only five minutes had passed. Rugby regulations punish neck-high tackles, but do not prevent them. The African striker was sent off for charging at him against a small player who was 1.74 meters tall and weighed 85 kilos. Beyond his size, his physique is marvelous, with a lower body that allows him to tackle much larger players: one of the virtues that France will miss.
The scrum-half leads the way. Not only is he in charge of orchestrating the play of his forwards, releasing the ball, setting the tempo, but he also has a marvelous ability to break the defensive line with his start, he is lethal on the counterattack and manages space like no one else. He is the leader of the generation that has ended a 12-year streak without winning the Six Nations for a country that occupies second place in the world ranking and that claimed its role as betting favorite after overwhelming New Zealand in the match inaugural.
Dupont’s injury is added to that of Romain Ntamack, the starting flyhalf. Both formed the hinge, the central axis of French rugby. Matthieu Jalibert, one of the candidates for Golden Boy Frenchman who succumbed to the pressure of a hungry country, has risen from the ashes to keep the bar at 10. Dupont’s shoes, however, are not for every foot. Baptiste Couilloud, a scrum-half with just 16 caps for the national team, always in a supporting role, faces the Herculean challenge of succeeding him.
With three wins in three games, France would secure first place in Group A if it meets the prediction and beats Italy on October 6. The problem comes the following weekend –predictably on Sunday the 15th– in the quarter-final matchup. Opposite will be Ireland, number one in the world ranking, or South Africa, current champion. Both face each other this Saturday in a match in which there are no incentives to win. Win to face some All Blacks with signs of losing weight in their infirmary or lose to deal with a hostess who foreseeably will not have her genius?
The fracture was determined after just 45 minutes of tests, according to RMC Sport, a scenario that leaves France in a compromising situation. Galthié’s wish is to wait 48 hours to see if developments allow him to hope to count on Dupont in the final rounds. Let the hematoma be reabsorbed without surgery. But the precariousness of the position and Couilloud’s inexperience suggest looking for an alternative as soon as possible. The host came to the tournament with a lethal mix between the muscle of her forwards, the unpredictability of her rear and a first-rate defensive gear. The intersection of all roads is numbered 9 and is named Dupont. Is it possible to win without it?
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