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France captain Antoine Dupont will meet with a specialist later this week to explore having a mask fitted to aid his recovery from a facial fracture.
French reports suggest Dupont remains on track for a miraculous return to action, with the talismanic skipper set to return to Les Bleus’ camp on Thursday and take part in modified training on Sunday, just 10 days after the facial fracture he suffered in his side’s record victory over Namibia, as long as he continues to show no signs of concussion.
In news which evokes memories of the mask worn by former France No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy while on club duty with Biarritz, Midi Olympique, the French rugby newspaper, added that Dupont is exploring the possibility of wearing a Harinordoquy-style mask in order to expedite his return to action.
The 26-year-old was forced to depart in the 46th minute of France’s biggest World Cup victory last Thursday after a head-on-head tackle from Namibian captain Johan Deysel left the halfback requiring surgery, which was successfully completed on Friday night.
France have begun their preparations for Italy, a must-win game which, on October 6, is expected to come too soon for Dupont. The hope, however, is that the No.9 is fit for the knockout stages of the competition, and that a protective mask could see the world’s best player lining up for a quarter-final at the Stade de France on October 15, most likely against South Africa.
This masthead understands that any mask made for Dupont would have to be signed off by World Rugby, whose current regulations state that there must be no hard materials and that “a player must not wear any item [of clothing/protection] of which any part is thicker than 5mm when uncompressed or is denser than 60 kilograms per cubic metre”.
Imanol Harinordoquy’s famous face mask in a 2010 Heineken Cup semi-final.Credit: Getty
Harinordoquy’s face protection remains one of European rugby’s iconic images. The back-rower broke his nose when tackling Sebastien Chabal in a Top 14 game against Racing 92 (then Metro), with a crunch match Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster coming up a week later.
In order to be fit, Harinordoquy donned the mask and starred in Biarritz’s victory over the Irish province, although Toulouse would later be crowned champions in the final.
In the 2023 Six Nations, Kyle Sinckler suffered a nasty cut to the nose against Italy but the England prop still faced Wales two weeks later after training in a custom-made carbon fibre mask, which protected the wound until the match.
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