France captain Dupont bounces back to start against South Africa in RWC quarterfinal
France revealed their hand by naming talismanic captain Antoine Dupont to start the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarterfinal against South Africa.
Antoine Dupont will start for France in Sunday’s quarter-final clash against South Africa after recovering from surgery on a broken cheekbone in a massive boost for the hosts ahead of what could turn out to be a tactical battle at the Stade de France.
The mercurial scrumhalf missed Les Bleus’ final Pool A game against Italy and while he was not needed in a 60-7 demolition of the Azzurri, the captain’s presence against the defending champions will offer a confidence boost and add danger to Fabien Galthie’s side.
The 26-year-old’s return, three weeks after a head-on-head collision with Namibia’s Johan Deysel sent him to hospital, pushes Maxime Lucu back onto the bench after he stood in brilliantly for Dupont alongside flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert.
“I feel great. I’m in possession of all my capabilities — technical and physical,” Dupont told a press conference on Friday.
“I thought the tournament was over for me. After the surgery, I started to have hope and then I had a good recovery and went through all the steps, had the chance to have several weeks to complete the process,” Dupont, who added he was highly likely to wear a protective helmet at the Stade de France, explained.
“I have no apprehension.”
Galthie said that Dupont’s comeback was not rushed and that a strict protocol was followed.
“Amidst all the pressure surrounding Antoine and his injury, we were very calm. We did not force anything and went through a process with the medical staff, Antoine and his surgeon,” he said.
South Africa sprung a few surprises with their line-up, with Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach occupying the halfback positions and a 5-3 forward-back split on the bench — a big shift from the 7-1 split coach Jacques Nienaber chose for their Pool B clash against Ireland.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Boks go for three backs on bench to face France in World Cup quarterfinal
Galthie, instead, opted to put six forwards instead of five on the bench as he looks to cope with the Springboks’ power and skill up front.
“It is a very precise tactical approach (by South Africa),” Galthie said.
“They always have a well-thought plan depending on who they are facing. They have been looking into everything and I think they’ve been looking into us a lot.
“Their 5-3 choice is tactical. It’s a chess game. This morning we were thinking about what we could propose ourselves. We’re entering a world of strategy and tactics, and we’re relishing the challenge.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup News Hub
France won the last meeting between the two teams, 30-26 last November, while South Africa prevailed 19-15 in their last World Cup encounter, in the 1995 semi-finals.
Les Bleus, who won all their pool games, starting with a 27-13 victory against New Zealand, are facing their second huge test of the tournament against a team they had not beaten since 2009 before last year.
“They’ve been worthy world champions, they have inspired us and we have been trying to understand them — their vision, the way they unite a nation,” said Galthie.
“For us, the goal is to play rugby, simply, and enjoy it, with ambition. We cannot wait for it.” Reuters/DM
15-Thomas Ramos, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Jonathan Danty, 11-Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10-Matthieu Jalibert, 9-Antoine Dupont (cap.), 8-Gregory Alldritt, 7-Charles Ollivon, 6-Anthony Jelonch, 5-Thibaud Flament, 4-Cameron Woki, 3-Uini Atonio, 2-Peato Mauvaka, 1-Cyril Baille.
16-Pierre Bourgarit, 17-Reda Wardi, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Francois Cros, 21-Sekou Macalou, 22-Maxime Lucu, 23-Yoram Moefana