France could switch Dupont replacement depending on opponents

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool A - France v Namibia - Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France - September 21, 2023 France's Antoine Dupont receives medical attention after sustaining an injury REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) – With Antoine Dupont injured for at least France’s final Pool A World Cup game against Italy, head coach Fabien Galthie could opt to switch between Maxime Lucu or Baptiste Couilloud at scrumhalf depending on the opponent instead of naming just one of them.

Dupont underwent surgery on a facial injury on Friday and will stay with the squad, but he is a major doubt for a potential quarter-final clash against defending champions South Africa.

Les Bleus, who are already without injured flyhalf Romain Ntamack at the World Cup, will top Pool A if they beat the Azzurri on Oct. 6 in Lyon.

Lucu was disappointing in France’s 27-12 win against Uruguay while Couilloud was scintillating when he came on for Dupont in Thursday’s 96-0 demolition of Namibia, but there were mitigating factors in both performances.

Lucu was part of a reserve team who were largely under par while Couilloud stepped onto the field in a game that France were dominating with their best players.

Former France scrumhalf Guy Accoceberry – part of the team that won a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1997 and finished third at the 1995 World Cup – believes Galthie should decide who starts depending on the opponents’ profile.


“First we need to beat Italy, having in mind that both players will be on the match sheet and one can replace the other to correct if things go wrong,” Accoceberry told Reuters on Sunday.

“Max Lucu is less flamboyant than Baptiste Couilloud, but he is super consistent and reliable. Also, he plays his club rugby with (flyhalf) Matthieu Jalibert. He’s going to be the player who follows the game plan perfectly.”

While he is a solid player like Dupont, Lucu lacks the France captain’s spark, which Couilloud could provide.

“They both have qualities that Antoine Dupont has, it’s just that all of those qualities are not in the same player,” Accoceberry explained.

“Baptiste Couilloud can break the lines and finish it off like Dupont does, while Max Lucu is more suited for situations when France abandon possession, defend and kick the ball a lot.

“However, I’m sure that Fabien Galthie had already thought about playing without Antoine because he anticipates everything.”

Another option might have been to bring in Baptiste Serin and keep Lucu and Couilloud as finishers, but that would mean Dupont is ruled out of the tournament, which is not the case yet.

“I think he will be back,” said Accoceberry.

“And this is going to boost the squad. They will be fired up against Italy to give Antoine the opportunity to play the quarter-finals, and if he can only make it back for the semis, they will also be fired up to give him the chance to play that game. He is still with the squad, his presence is invaluable.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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