Wed, 06 Dec 2023

A second-half injury to France skipper Antoine Dupont eclipsed a record win over Namibia which virtually sealed a place for the hosts in the last eight at the rugby union World Cup.

Dupont went off in the 47th minute at the Velodrome in Marseille with a face injury after his Namibia counterpart Johan Deysel tackled him.

Referee Matthew Carley handed Deysel a yellow card which was upgraded while he was in the sin bin.

When Deysel's head thudded into Dupont, France were leading 54-0.

They scored another 42 points once the 26-year-old had left the fray.

"We are never happy when a player gets injured," lamented France coach Fabien Galthie. "We are extremely concerned."

But his vaunted meticulousness is likely to face intense scrutiny should Dupont's injury prove serious.

Before the game, Galthie had talked up the planning and strategy needed for a successful campaign.

He said there was a Darwinian element about triumphant teams: they adapt.

After such declarations, singular refusal to extricate a prime specimen in a game that had been won may come to be considered hubris.

Dupont was among several stars who missed France's second game against Uruguay after having performed so spectacularly in the opening day win over New Zealand on 8 September.

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert had also sat out the Uruguay victory.

It took the dynamic duo five minutes to start the rout against a Namibia side that lost their previous Group A games 52-8 and 71-3 against Italy and New Zealand respectively.

Dupont collected the ball from a scrum nudging towards the Namibia line and kicked it over to the right.


During its flight, Damien Penaud - also rested for the Uruguay game - computed the myriad ways the apporaching oval object could land and set himself to collect it unfussily, swerve past the last defender and over.

The second try repeated such savage simplicity. Jalibert kicked for the left corner for Louis Bielle-Biarrey to chase.

As the ball bounced up, the winger jumped, flicked it back inside for Jonathan Danty to touch down. Thomas Ramos converted to make it 12-0 after only nine minutes.

The third try - crowd-pleasing as it was - seemed unnecessarily cruel.

Slick passes down the right wing between Jailbert and Charles Ollivon ended with the latter going over near the posts.

Five minutes later, Penaud had his brace. On the half hour mark so did Danty. And with Thomas Ramos kicking the conversions to rack up his tally, there was symmetry: 33-0 after 33 minutes.


To strains of La Marseillaise and chants of "Allez les Bleus", on the local heros romped. Thibaud Flament, Dupont and Bielle-Biarre also scampered over the line for a 54-0 lead at the break.

"Unintentional happens so quickly," said Coetzee. "And Johan is an absolute clean player. He's got no record of cards in the past. It's a pity it happened to him. He is a captain. He's a glue of the team."

The same could be said of Dupont who since making his debut with the France team in 2017 has developed into one of the best players on the planet.


Dupont's replacement, Baptiste Couilloud, scored soon after coming on. Penaud completed his hat trick. Bielle-Biarre and Ollivon both bagged their braces. And Melvyn Jaminet scored too.

"Every little poor kick or mistake we made got punished," said Coetzee.

Namibia finished the match in disarray. Jason Benade was yellow- carded for stopping a maul illegally and was sent off for 10 minutes as a penalty try was awarded.

That made it 96-0. The full-time whistle robbed France of the chance to pass 100 points.

The decision to keep Dupont on the field might deprive them of a bigger prize.

Originally published on RFI

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