PARIS (Reuters) -France's Rugby World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread on Friday after it was confirmed that captain Antoine Dupont, widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, suffered a facial fracture in the hosts' record 96-0 victory over Namibia.
The 26-year-old Dupont looks set to at least miss France's last Pool A game against Italy on Oct. 6 and he is a big doubt for a potential quarter-final clash against world number one Ireland or defending champions South Africa.
It is another blow for the hosts, who are already without their number one flyhalf Romain Ntamack after the Toulouse player suffered a knee injury in a warm-up test last month.
"Antoine Dupont has suffered a maxillo-zygomatic fracture. A specialist surgical opinion has been requested to determine the exact length of the player's unavailability. Antoine Dupont remains with the France squad," the French federation (FFR) said in a statement
Dupont sustained the injury in the 46th minute at the Stade de Marseille on Thursday in a head-to-head clash with Johan Deysel, whose initial yellow card was upgraded to a red.
It had been planned that Dupont would be replaced after some 50 minutes.
"We are worried. We were happy with the match but it has been a rough night. But we're not going to overthink it for now, we are waiting for the surgeon's opinion, which will determine the length of Antoine's unavailability. We have 48 or 72 hours to wait," assistant coach Laurent Labit told a press conference on Friday.
Labit said it was not yet clear if Dupont would need surgery.
"We're hoping that he can continue. We're now waiting to see what he can or cannot do, when he can go back to training. But it's sure we ended this match with a bitter taste in our mouths."
Since coach Fabien Galthie took over after the 2019 World Cup, Les Bleus have won a Six Nations by achieving a Grand Slam and have become one of the favourites for the sport's biggest tournament, largely thanks to their pair of talented halfbacks.
Labit said injuries were part of a World Cup campaign, and that players were prepared for it.
"This is something that we had discussed with them", he said.
Maxime Lucu is Dupont's usual replacement at scrumhalf and France also have Baptiste Couilloud who can deputise.
Couilloud scored a try seconds after coming on for Dupont against Namibia.
"Depending on the surgeon's opinion, Antoine will decide what he wants to do and we will respect it," said Labit.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)