France dazzled as they ran in 14 tries for their biggest ever victory with a 96-0 hammering of Namibia on Thursday but it may have come at a cost to their World Cup campaign after captain Antoine Dupont was forced off early in the second half.
Dupont left the stadium for a medical assessment after a reckless tackle from Namibia skipper Johan Deysel resulted in a suspected fractured jaw, coach Fabien Galthie said.
France now anxiously wait to confirm the extent of the damage to Dupont … and their World Cup chances.
“Currently he’s in hospital being tested, there is the suspicion of a fracture to his jaw. I cannot tell you more than that,” Galthie said. “We are extremely concerned.”
France have 13 points from their three wins in Pool A but are not yet assured of a quarter-final place and will have to beat Italy in their final match in Lyon on Oct. 6.
The match in Marseille was a one-sided contest as expected. Namibia were woefully outgunned and came up against a home side willing to run the ball from all parts and in a party mood.
That was set by a raucous 63,486 home crowd at the Stade de Marseille, who were relishing the novelty of seeing the World Cup hosts in action as France take their pool games around the country, on this occasion to the south coast.
Damian Penaud (three), Louis Bielle-Biarrey (two), Jonathan Danty (two), Charles Ollivon (two), Thibaud Flament, Dupont, Baptiste Couilloud and Melvyn Jaminet all crossed the line for the home side to go with a penalty try.
The scoreline beat their previous biggest victory in tests, an 87-10 hammering of Namibia at the 2007 World Cup, and is France’s 17th win in a row on home soil, which equals their longest unbeaten run in front of their own fans set between 2001 and 2004.
Thomas Ramos broke the French record for conversions in a single test with 12, while the 14 tries is also a team record on a night when new milestones were set.
“A tough night at the office and in a way a bit humiliating,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said. “A few youngsters needed the experience but I could see in the first 20 minute the boys were a bit flustered.
“They did things out of character and were not sticking to the plan and that’s just pressure.”
It took them six minutes to get on the scoreboard as wing Penaud crossed for the first of his three on the night, and that opened the floodgates as France crossed eight times in the first half alone.
Dupont was running the show from scrumhalf and at his mercurial best, with a beautiful kick assist for wing Bielle-Biarrey to score as France led 54-0 at halftime.
Namibia thought they had the first score of the second half when Divan Rossouw ran in unopposed after an intercept, but it was disallowed after Deysel had clattered headfirst into the cheekbone of Dupont and was given a yellow card, quickly upgraded to a red on bunker review.
It took the gloss off a near perfect night for the French, who showed all their skill, flair and swagger, but might have lost their chief creator as they seek a first World Cup title.