A serious-looking facial injury to captain Antoine Dupont took the gloss off France’s highest ever score, a 96-0 romp against hapless Namibia at the Rugby World Cup this morning.
There were 14 tries, including a penalty try, and Thomas Ramos converted 12 of 13.
The Rugby World Cup’s seventh highest score was marred by his game-ending injury, after he was in a head-on-head collision with Namibia captain Johan Deysel in the 45th minute. Deysel was yellow-carded for the dangerous upright hit while Dupont walked off in distress. He left Stade Velodrome immediately for hospital scans.
“There’s a suspicion of a crack or fracture to his jaw. He’s gone for tests,” coach Fabien Galthie said. “We’ll wait for the (test) results before moving forward.”
Dupont will likely miss France’s last pool game against Italy in two weeks. The quarterfinals are in three weeks. Galthie will be second-guessed for leaving his best player on the field while the team was leading 54-0.
“How do you expect me to answer that? I can’t take 15 players off at halftime. We had planned to make changes to the rest of the team in the 55th minute,” Galthie said. “We’re always very concerned when a player goes off injured.”
France lost star flyhalf Romain Ntamack to a serious knee injury before the tournament and Matthieu Jalibert is a top-class replacement. But Dupont is considered the world’s best player, France’s inspiration, and irreplaceable.
Deysel’s yellow card was upgraded to red by a bunker review. By coincidence, Namibia’s only other Rugby World Cup red card was to Jacques Nieuwenhuis in 2007 also against France, which went on to achieve its previous record test score, 87-10.
The heavy-hitters who made the scoreboard this time included winger Damian Penaud with a hat trick, and winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey, center Jonathan Danty and flanker Charles Ollivon who grabbed two each.
“The tries are anecdotal. We’ll remember today’s victory,” Penaud said. “Now we’ve found a bit of cohesion on the pitch, it bodes well for the future.”
The other try scorers in the Marseille mauling were lock Thibaud Flament, replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud, replacement fullback Melyvn Jaminet and a last-gasp penalty try.
Penaud’s try-scoring run extended to six games and gave him a national record 13 in a calendar year, beating Phillipe Saint-André's record from 1995, and put him one ahead of Saint-André for Les Tricolores with 33 tries overall.
France extended Namibia’s tournament losing run to a record 25 games.
“It was a tough day at the office. A little bit humiliating,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said. “Our objective is still alive, to win a game at the World Cup.”
Namibia had an intercept try five minutes into the second half scratched off after the TMO showed Deysel’s collision with Dupont.
Les Tricolores opened the tournament beating New Zealand 27-13 and followed with an uninspiring 27-12 victory against Uruguay. That game drew criticism and so Galthié picked a full-strength side which had the four-try bonus point inside 20 minutes.
“We got outmuscled and outclassed by a quality French side,” Namibia hooker Louis van der Westhuizen said. “We’ve got a lot of local boys only playing [club] rugby in Namibia, so for them to play on a world stage like this in front of a crowd like this is massive.”
It took six minutes for France to score from a lineout, with Dupont’s smart kick to the right picked up on the bounce by Penaud.
Jalibert kicked next, to the left, where Bielle-Biarrey did well to stop the ball going out and showed great hands to flick it back to Danty. The try was awarded following a quick review.
Ollivon got in on the act, burrowing over after Penaud and Mathieu Jalibert combined neatly. Hooker Peato Mauvaka dummied to attack and instead served Penaud on the right, and his change of direction was too good for Namibia’s defense.
Another attacking lineout saw Cameron Woki rise high and pat the ball down instantly to Dupont, who fed Danty for his second try on his return from a sore hamstring. Then, Flament picked up No. 8 Anthony Jelonch’s offload and dived between the posts.
Dupont orchestrated many of his team’s attacks, so it was just reward he was served by Penaud, who broke free from a couple of weak tackles and passed to him inside in the 38th.
There was even time for an eighth try with seconds left before the break, as Dupont’s quick eye spotted Bielle-Biarrey on the left and he clipped a perfectly-weighted kick.
Perhaps that was the right time to take Dupont off and wrap him in cotton wool.
France’s last pool game is against Italy on October 6, when Penaud will look to overtake winger Vincent Clerc on 34 tries and move closer to France’s record-holder Serge Blanco on 38.
Highest scores in Rugby World Cup history
New Zealand 145 Japan 17, Bloemfontein, 1995
Australia 142 Namibia 0, Adelaide, 2003
England 111 Uruguay 13, Brisbane, 2003
New Zealand 108 Portugal 13, Lyon, 2007
New Zealand 101 Italy 3, Huddersfield, 1999
England 101 Tonga 10, London, 1999
France 96 Namibia 0, Marseille, 2023
Australia 91 Japan 3, Lyon, 2007
New Zealand 91 Tonga 7, Brisbane, 2003
Australia 90 Romania 8, Brisbane, 2003
Scotland 89 Ivory Coast 0 Rustenburg, 1995