These daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the Rugby World Cup as well as betting lines, “what to watch for” information, and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from France.
THE LEAD: FRANCE WAITS, HOPES THEY HAVEN’T SEEN THE LAST OF DUPONT
There are few sporting moments that can stop a country in its tracks. But the sight of Antoine Dupont leaving the field in the 46th minute of France’s trouncing of Namibia would have been one of those moments when a nation held its collective breath. Dupont is the star of this World Cup. He’s mentioned in the same breath as Zinedine Zidane, 2023’s version of the famous No.10 who guided the men’s football team to their 1998 triumph 25 years ago. His face is everywhere — smiling, the thousand-mile stare — or he’s in action, fending off a tackler, kicking off his wrong foot, or playing a miracle pass.
But now the nation waits. The latest reports say he suffered a facial fracture in the head clash with Johan Deysel. It’d be fascinating to see the spike in Google searches on Friday asking what exactly a “maxillo zygomatic fracture” is. Dupont will now head to Toulouse from Marseille to consult a surgeon to see what needs to be done, and learn whether he’ll be able to play in this competition again.
His participation is partly reliant on how far France go. They’re essentially through the pool — Italy must throw a monumental spanner in the works to halt that — and then it’s either South Africa or Ireland in the quarterfinals. There are several estimations of how long he’ll be out doing the rounds — from four to six weeks, or longer — but we’re unlikely to hear anything definitive until Sunday.
“Antoine certainly imagined the worst before the first examinations,” France assistant coach Laurent Labit said on Friday. “After the initial tests, Fabien [Galthié, head coach] went to see him. Today, we’re just waiting for the appointment with the specialist to see what he can or can’t do, and when he can return to training. That’s what Antoine is focusing on at the moment.”
Elsewhere, just about everyone involved in the World Cup was asked about Dupont’s injury on Friday. All Blacks assistant coach Jason Ryan said: “He’s a phenomenal player but I think France will be just, ‘Next man in’.”. In Paris, Wales boss Warren Gatland said when asked about the Dupont injury in his pre-match press conference before facing Australia on Sunday: “The World Cup needs a player like him to be there past the group stages. He’s world class.”
Then there was Ireland legend and assistant coach Paul O’Connell’s take from the Stade de France, where he summed it all up brilliantly. “He’s obviously a brilliant player in unbelievable form. A lot of teams play very similar rugby but he makes them very unpredictable. He’s very unorthodox in how he plays the game — the way he runs across the pitch, he kicks off both feet, he’s very strong in the tackle for a scrum-half, so he gives them a real unpredictable edge to their attack. If he’s gone, there’s no doubt he will be a loss. It would be a shame if he’s out of the tournament because he’s a brilliant player and he adds to the tournament. I hope he’s OK.”
So now France waits for word from the camp on how long Dupont is out. Deysel, the man whose head connected with Dupont’s jaw, will wait for his disciplinary hearing with the ban likely to rule him out of Namibia’s final two matches. And France plan for Italy, looking to the other two scrum-halves in their squad to do the job. It’s a team game, after all, but the World Cup will be a poorer tournament without Dupont.
AROUND THE CUP
Gats has sympathy for old mate Eddie [kind of]
Wales and Australia meet on Sunday night in what promises to be one of the games of the tournament, one that carries huge significance in Pool C. For Australia, a loss will likely be terminal and who knows where that might leave Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach; the man himself isn’t even sure.
There is certainly a lot of heat coming down on Jones right now, with former Wallabies Drew Mitchell and David Campese among those to voice their critiques; but Jones certainly has an ally in Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, who appears happy to let the coach execute his plan to usher in the new generation of players.
Wales coach Warren Gatland is in a similar position to Jones, having returned to his former post only a month before the Australian and also taking the belief that his team needed to look to the future.
The difference is that Wales have two wins and 10 points at the World Cup, while Jones’ men are playing for their tournament survival.
“I don’t think so. He’s been getting enough stick from everybody else so there’s no need for me to put the boot into him,” Gatland when asked said on Friday if their Six Nations tradition of a pre-match curry was in store this week in Toulon.
“In a strange way we are probably going through the same things in terms of coming back and getting limited preparation time.”
Asked if he had any sympathy for Jones, Gatland said: “No”.
But when pressed on that stance, he said that he had been joking and that he could understand what Jones was trying to achieve.
“That was a bit of a joke. As coaches we all come under pressure at times. It’s part of the job. In fairness to Eddie, he’s trying to take pressure off the players in terms of saying he’s responsible for the performances and results and saying they’re not good enough.
“I understand where he’s at it. It’s a rebuilding process. He has made a number of changes and he’s got a young team going forward. I understand, I’ve been in those situations in the past. There’s no criticism that has been aimed at the players, it has all been aimed at Eddie.”
Argentina back on song on the pitch and in the stands
Argentina got their World Cup campaign back on track with a 19-10 victory over Samoa on Friday and neutrals will hope they can carry on into the quarterfinals and maybe beyond given the incredible support from the boisterous Pumas fans.
Two weeks ago the Pumas fans brought noise and colour to Marseille’s Stade Velodrome but quickly fell silent as their team were swept away by 14-man England.
At St Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy Guichard, however, the din was relentless and reminiscent of the local football team’s glorious European nights of the 1970s as Argentina made all the running against a tough but error-strewn Samoan side.
The roar from the stands was deafening when Nicolas Sanchez thumped over a huge penalty at the death to settle their nerves after Samoa had closed to within six points.
“Thanks a lot to everyone, the supporters were incredible. We felt their support,” Emiliano Boffelli said after his 16-point man-of-the-match performance.
Captain Julian Montoya said: “Thank you to all the people of Argentina who are here. The support they gave us was very loud so we felt like we were at home.”
The Pumas’ Australian coach Michael Cheika said of the fans: “They give everything and we want to give them something back on the field. We love our supporters, they’re awesome.”
The victory puts Argentina right back in the Pool D mix, and with games against Chile and Japan to come they look to be favourites to advance to the quarterfinals alongside England.
Georgia vs. Portugal:
TAB [tab.com.au] Georgia $1.12, -14.5 $1.85; Portugal $6.20, +14.5 $1.95
Georgia will look to kickstart their campaign in what is just their second match of the tournament, with key Pool C clashes to come vs. Fiji and Wales over the next fortnight. They may yet play a role in deciding who advances from the group; they, too, can still advance but five points from this game is non-negotiable. Georgia finished with a wet sail against the Wallabies first up, and cleaner handling and better decisions in attack this weekend should see them claim victory but Portugal played an excellent brand of rugby against Wales last weekend. Portugal have the attack to create some problems for Georgia, but the Lelos should be able to apply pressure at scrum time. Keep an eye on fullback Davit Niniashvili, who opened up Australia a fortnight ago; if Georgia pick up the four-try bonus point, he will likely have played a leading role in them doing so.
England vs. Chile:
TAB [tab.com.au]: England SUSP, -49.5 $1.85; Chile $41, +49.5 $1.95
Owen Farrell is the name on everyone’s lips in this clash, with the England skipper to make his return after a four-game ban for a dangerous tackle on Wales’ Taine Basham last month. In his absence, George Ford has done a stellar job guiding England around while also kicking points from the tee and the drop — the Sale man making a case to keep the No. 10 shirt even after Farrell returned. Ford will come off the bench against Chile, while the coach. Steve Borthwick, has picked Marcus Smith at fullback, which suggests this will be all-out attack from the improving team. Chile, meanwhile, have proven they are a team with plenty of endeavour and attacking mindset, with players across the paddock who love to run with the ball and take the line on. They were able to hang with Samoa and Japan for 40-50 minutes in the first two weeks of the competition, but they faded badly in the closing half-hour of those matches. It is likely to be a similar story here, with England embracing the opportunity to further enhance their developing attack.
South Africa vs. Ireland:
TAB [tab.com.au]: South Africa $1.77, -1.5 $1.90; Ireland $2.05, +1.5 $1.90
Arguably the game of the pool phase, perhaps outside the tournament opener, these two heavyweights are set to light up Stade de France after the Parisian venue saw no rugby in the second week of the competition. Both teams have strong set-pieces, a clear understanding of how they want to play the game, and pace and skill out wide to finish even the smallest of try-scoring opportunities. And you get the feeling that there may be only one or two of those in the match, such is the evenness of the 23s. There are concerns around Springboks fly-half Manie Libbok’s goal kicking, while Ireland playmaker Jonny Sexton will see plenty of traffic in defence. South Africa have also opted for a 7-1 bench split, which is no surprise given how effective the move was against the All Blacks last month; but could that lack of backline cover hurt them this time around? It is a decision not without risk. If Ireland are able to find a way through South Africa’s rush defence, a feat Scotland could not achieve, they may hold the upper hand slightly. But there promises to be absolutely nothing between these two teams, with the result likely not to be known until the closing minutes.
NEWS OF THE DAY
Deysel apologies to Dupont
Namibia captain Jean Deysel on Friday apologised for his tackle on France skipper Antoine Dupont, as the African was referred straight to a World Rugby disciplinary hearing.
Earlier in the day, it had been revealed that Deysel had been the subject of social media abuse and had been forced to put his Instagram account on private. That is a sorry state of affairs for an act that was unintentional, a hit Deysel said he just got badly wrong.
“I would like to extend my best wishes to Antoine Dupont,” he said. “Clearly I meant no harm.
“Everything happened very quickly and I couldn’t get my head out of the way quick enough, resulting in a clash. I knew immediately I was at fault.
“I spoke with [France] coach Fabien Galthié immediately after the match, and sent my best wishes and apologies to Antoine both personally and via the France team doctor.
“He is a great player and person and I wish him a speedy recovery.”
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