Namibia captain Johan Deysel has apologised to Antoine Dupont following a head-on-head collision that has left the France star’s Rugby World Cup campaign in doubt.
Dupont suffered a facial fracture during France’s record 96-0 win against Namibia in Marseille.
Deysel’s yellow card for the collision, with France leading 54-0, was upgraded to red following a review by the television match official.
The French Rugby Federation confirmed the extent of Dupont’s injury on Friday, but said it was uncertain how long the scrum-half will be unavailable for.
Deysel said: “I would like to extend my best wishes to Antoine Dupont. 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 head clash. I know the rules and immediately knew that I was at fault.
“I spoke with Fabien Galthie (France head coach) immediately after the match and sent my best wishes and apologies to Antoine, both personally and via the France team doctor.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 22, 2023
“He is a great player and person, and I wish him a speedy recovery.”
A tearful Dupont went to hospital in nearby Aix-en-Provence, and the Federation said: “Specialised surgical advice was requested to assess how long he will be unavailable for.”
France’s final pool game is against Italy in Lyon on October 6, before a quarter-final – probably against Ireland or South Africa – the following weekend.
If Les Bleus reach the semi-finals, they take place in Paris on October 20 and 21.
Dupont’s fitness setback is headline news in France, and there is a real possibility of Les Bleus losing their star player for the tournament remainder.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland and England scrum-half Danny Care, meanwhile, have been among the well-wishers to Dupont.
Gatland said: “Hopefully, he will be OK.
“The World Cup needs a player like him to be fit and be there past the group stage, in the quarter-finals, semi-finals or if France get to the final. He is absolutely world class.”
And Care said: “In the World Cup, you want to see the best players. Antoine is the best player in the world, so we want to see him back there in a French shirt.
“One thing we know about him is he is tough. If he is able, he will be back in a French shirt.
“I saw the way they played last night with him fizzing around, and he is pretty special, so for the tournament I want to see the best players playing. We wish him a speedy recovery.”
Former world player of the year Dupont has been the star performer in a resurgent French team under Galthie’s direction.
— Rugby World Cup France 2023 (@France2023) September 22, 2023
And while it is hoped he can return before the end of the tournament, there must also be doubts about his future participation as France target a first world title.
France attack coach Laurent Labit said on Friday: “We always have a hope that Antoine will continue the adventure with us.
“We will leave the time for two-three days to have the opinion of a specialist. It’s Antoine and the surgeon who will make the decision.
“For us, Antoine hasn’t finished the competition. We have three days in front of us. We hope to have good news after the three days.
“Antoine certainly imagined the worst before the first examinations. After the initial tests, Fabien (Galthie) went to see him.
“Antoine stays with us. Everyone will be together. We will do as we have always done with short-term injuries in hoping that the opinion of the surgeon is positive for Antoine and us.
“The specialist knows who Antoine Dupont is, what competition he is currently playing. It is not an average subject.”