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Dupont’s possible return boosts France

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, FRANCE (AFP) – France forwards coach William Servat said on Tuesday he had “no doubt” that emblematic captain Antoine Dupont could return from injury in time for a potential Rugby World Cup quarter-final next month.

Scrum-half Dupont underwent surgery after suffering a fractured cheekbone in Thursday’s victory over Namibia, putting hosts Les Bleus on the verge of the knock-out stages which take place on the weekend of October 14-15.

France’s next game is against Italy on October 7 when a victory would guarantee top spot in Pool A and a last-eight tie, in all likelihood with World Cup holders South Africa.

“The operation went well, he’s resting. He will be back training on Sunday,” Servat told reporters.

“I have no doubt about his ability to play the quarter-final,” the former France hooker added.

Former World Rugby player of the year Dupont, 26, was helped off the pitch in last week’s win over Namibia and has been at home since undergoing surgery on Friday.

Missing poster boy Dupont for the knock-out stages of the tournament would be a big blow to France’s chances of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy for the first time.

The Toulouse half-back is yet to lose on home soil as captain of his country, a run dating back 14 Tests.

“Friday and Saturday are days off for us,” Servat said.

“He will have time to return in that period of time,” he added.

Doctor Bernard Dusfour, former president of the medical commission of the French National Rugby League (LNR), told AFP on Friday that after undergoing surgery, the minimum period of unavailability for an elite athlete was “four weeks”.

On Saturday, former France back-rower Olivier Magne warned about bringing Dupont back too soon.

“I think, quite naturally, that he will return in his own way,” Servat said.

“It’s out of the question that we (the coaching staff) decide whatever before speaking to him and having the green light from the medical department,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Namibia captain Johan Deysel was banned for five matches for the challenge on Dupont.

After the game in Marseille Dupont remained upbeat, posting “The show must go on” on social media.

Maxime Lucu or Baptiste Couilloud are set to replace Dupont at scrum-half against Italy in Lyon with the likes of Anthony Jelonch and Charles Ollivon among the contenders to lead the side.

Apart from Dupont, Fabien Galthie’s France also have injury concerns about flanker and former skipper Ollivon, back-rower Paul Boudehent as well as starting hooker Julien Marchand, with all three rested for Tuesday’s training session.

Fans react as they meet withs France’s players in front of city hall of Aix-en-Provence, on September 26, 2023, during the France 2023 Rugby World Cup. PHOTO: AFP