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New twist as Dupont could return with specialist mask

INJURY UPDATE: France has been given hope as superstar Antoine Dupont is reportedly on the fast track to return from injury for the World Cup quarterfinals.

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The French captain fractured his cheekbone during the 96-0 win over Namibia on Thursday in Marseille.

He played just 45 minutes of the Pool A clash before he was caught in the face by the head of Johan Deysel, the Namibian captain, who was red-carded following a foul play bunker review after he was initially yellow-carded.

The scrumhalf underwent surgery the very next day to have a plate fitted in his face before returning to the French squad.

Just 24 hours after his surgery, Les Bleus were finding out their probable opponents in the World Cup quarterfinals as Ireland defeated the reigning champions South Africa in an epic clash.

On Saturday, the FFR revealed that he will be able to return to the France team in a process of gradual sports recovery and under medical supervision.

While the French camp has not revealed the in-depth return of the Dupont, recent reports suggest he could play the quarterfinal match.

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According to Midi Olympique,  the 2021 World Rugby Player of the Year will see a specialist this week in the hope of fashioning a protective mask to be moulded around his face, which will allow him to play in the quarterfinals on Sunday, October 15 (should France win Pool A).

Under World Rugby regulation 12.4 “a player must not wear any item of which any part is thicker than 5mm,” which rules out the possibility of the 26-year-old sporting a mask similar to compatriot Imanol Harinordoquy’s in 2010. The former Biarritz loose forward’s headwear was considerably more than 5mm when he wore it to protect a broken nose.

Lightweight plastic or fibreglass masks are not uncommon across the sporting world. At last year’s football World Cup, South Korea captain Son Heung-min wore a face mask just weeks after fracturing his eye socket for Tottenham Hotspur, which will provide some hope for Dupont.

France have one game remaining in their pool, against Italy in Lyon after a week’s break. Fabien Galthie’s side will likely have the firepower to deal with Italy without their captain, leaving him in a race to be ready for the quarterfinals a week after that.

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Namibia captain Johan Deysel has since apologised to Dupont after his red card tackle injured the Frenchman.

He 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 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.”

*Additional reporting: Rugbypass

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