Dupont’s Facial Injury Scars France’s 14-Try Romp against Namibia at the Rugby World Cup

AP Photo/Daniel Cole
France’s Antoine Dupont receives treatment after taking a knock to the head during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between France and Namibia at the Stade de Marseille in Marseille, France, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — A serious-looking facial injury to captain Antoine Dupont took the gloss off France’s highest ever score, a 96-0 romp against hapless Namibia at the Rugby World Cup on Thursday.

There were 14 tries, including a penalty try, and Thomas Ramos converted 12 of 13.

The Rugby World Cup’s seventh highest score was marred by his game-ending injury, after he was in a head-on-head collision with Namibia captain Johan Deysel in the 45th minute. Deysel was yellow-carded for the dangerous upright hit while Dupont walked off in distress. He left Stade Velodrome immediately for hospital scans.

“There’s a suspicion of a crack or fracture to his jaw. He’s gone for tests,” coach Fabien Galthie said. “We’ll wait for the (test) results before moving forward.”

Dupont will likely miss France’s last pool game against Italy in two weeks. The quarterfinals are in three weeks. Galthie will be second-guessed for leaving his best player on the field while the team was leading 54-0.

“How do you expect me to answer that? I can’t take 15 players off at halftime. We had planned to make changes to the rest of the team in the 55th minute,” Galthie said. “We’re always very concerned when a player goes off injured.”

France lost star flyhalf Romain Ntamack to a serious knee injury before the tournament and Matthieu Jalibert is a top-class replacement. But Dupont is considered the world’s best player, France’s inspiration, and irreplaceable.

Deysel’s yellow card was upgraded to red by a bunker review. By coincidence, Namibia’s only other Rugby World Cup red card was to Jacques Nieuwenhuis in 2007 also against France, which went on to achieve its previous record test score, 87-10.

The heavy-hitters who made the scoreboard this time included winger Damian Penaud with a hat trick, and winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey, center Jonathan Danty and flanker Charles Ollivon who grabbed two each.

“The tries are anecdotal. We’ll remember today’s victory,” Penaud said. “Now we’ve found a bit of cohesion on the pitch, it bodes well for the future.”

The other try scorers in the Marseille mauling were lock Thibaud Flament, replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud, replacement fullback Melyvn Jaminet and a last-gasp penalty try.

Penaud’s try-scoring run extended to six games and gave him a national record 13 in a calendar year, beating Phillipe Saint-André’s record from 1995, and put him one ahead of Saint-André for Les Tricolores with 33 tries overall.

France extended Namibia’s tournament losing run to a record 25 games.

“It was a tough day at the office. A little bit humiliating,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said. “Our objective is still alive, to win a game at the World Cup.”

Namibia had an intercept try five minutes into the second half scratched off after the TMO showed Deysel’s collision with Dupont.

Les Tricolores opened the tournament beating New Zealand 27-13 and followed with an uninspiring 27-12 victory against Uruguay. That game drew criticism and so Galthié picked a full-strength side which had the four-try bonus point inside 20 minutes.

“We got outmuscled and outclassed by a quality French side,” Namibia hooker Louis van der Westhuizen said. “We’ve got a lot of local boys only playing (club) rugby in Namibia, so for them to play on a world stage like this in front of a crowd like this is massive.”

France’s two-week break will include time with families. Italy on Oct. 6 will offer Penaud a chance to overtake winger Vincent Clerc on 34 tries and move closer to France’s record-holder Serge Blanco on 38.

Namibia lost 52-8 to Italy and was overwhelmed by the All Blacks 71-3. It concludes against Uruguay in Lyon next Wednesday when it hopes to end a record 25-game losing run at the tournament since 1999.