Antoine Dupont is reportedly seeing a specialist for the extent of his facial fracture, but it is “touch and go” whether the France captain returns before the end of the World Cup.
The influential Dupont, who had earlier scored a try, left the pitch on Thursday in the 46th minute of a 96-0 win for Les Bleus nursing his right cheekbone after former Sharks centre Johan Deysel made a badly-timed head-on-head tackle and was sent off.
The French federation on Friday confirmed that Dupont suffered a fracture, but has not yet been ruled out of the World Cup.
“Specialised surgical advice was requested to assess how long he will be unavailable for,” the federation stated on Friday.
According to a report on BBC Sport, early estimates are that Dupont is looking at between four and six weeks out, and may still return for France in five weeks if they progress to the semi-finals.
An earlier article in French newspaper Midi Olympique claimed that Dupont has suffered a fracture of the “orbital floor” after being hit in the right cheekbone.
It is understood he was taken for examinations at a private hospital in Aix-en-Provence, and it has been speculated that Dupont is doubtful to feature in the quarter-finals.
The loss of the 26-year-old halfback, widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, would be a severe blow to host nation France’s chances of winning the World Cup for the first time.
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 [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 scrumhalf 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 that 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.
“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.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA