France given huge boost as Antoine Dupont starts Springboks quarter-final

Face of the World Cup Dupont has recovered from a fractured cheekbone to captain the side in Paris on Sunday evening

Luke Baker
in Paris
Friday 13 October 2023 11:14 BST
Related video: Danny Care wishes 'best player in the world' Antoine Dupont a speedy recovery

France received a huge boost for their heavyweight Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash against South Africa with talismanic captain Antoine Dupont fit enough to be named as the starting scrum half.

Dupont – who is the face of the home World Cup in France – has been sidelined since suffering a fractured cheekbone in France’s pool stage win over Namibia, with fears that he would be ruled out of the tournament.

However, he rejoined the squad last week after undergoing surgery, was cleared by doctors to resume training on Monday and will now start the clash against the defending champions in Paris on Sunday evening. He confirmed that he will wear a scrum cap as portection, at the behest of his surgeon.

Maxime Lucu, Dupont’s deputy, impressed in the bonus-point victory over Italy that sealed top spot in Pool A, combining well in the half-backs with club colleague Matthieu Jalibert, and he is among the replacements, while Jalibert starts at No 10.

“I feel very well today,” confirmed Dupont at the team announcement press conference. “At the time, I didn’t know how serious my injury was. I had to wait for the examinations to get hope back.

“But I was able to go through the stages and my recovery went well. Today I’m fully capable and in full possession of my means, both physical and technical, and ready for the game.”

French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique featured Dupont on their front page this morning, underneath the headline ‘The day to believe’, and suggested that with the scrum half set to start, Les Bleus can overcome the immense challenge against the reigning world champions.

Hooker Julien Marchand has not recovered in time to feature in the quarter-final, however. Marchand suffered a hamstring injury early in France’s opening game against New Zealand, and did not return as anticipated against Italy after a setback in his recovery which has now ruled him out of the Springboks clash.

Peato Mauvaka has performed well in his stead in the heart of the front row and maintains his place – flanked by props Cyril Baille and Uini Atonio – with Pierre Bouragarit offering high-quality back-up from the bench.

The rest of the team is largely as expected, with Louis Bielle-Biarrey confirming his status as Fabien Galthie’s first-choice left winger as he dons the No 11 jersey ahead of Gabin Villiere to join Thomas Ramos and Damian Penaud in the back three.

Jonathan Danty provides the bulk and physicality in midfield alongside Gael Fickou, while Cameron Woki and Thibaud Flament are the locks with Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon and Gregory Alldritt forming the back row.

Galthie has gone for a 6-2 split of forwards to backs on the bench as Lucu and Yoram Moefana are the backline cover.

France starting XV: 15. Thomas Ramos, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10. Matthieu Jalibert, 9. Antoine Dupont (captain); 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Peato Mauvaka, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Thibaud Flament, 6. Anthony Jelonch, 7. Charles Ollivon, 8. Gregory Alldritt;

Replacements: 16. Pierre Bourgarit, 17. Reda Wardi, 18. Dorian Aldegheri, 19. Romain Taofifenua, 20. Francois Cros, 21. Sekou Macalou, 22. Maxime Lucu, 23. Yoram Moefana

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