Since the 45th minute of the match between France and Namibia last Thursday, the entire France has been holding its breath. Despite the large victory of the XV of France (96-0), Fabien Galthié did not show a happy look after the match, far from it. The explanation is found in the injury of his captain Antoine Dupont: "We have a suspicion of crack or fracture on the maxilla," he explained in the mixed zone after the game. That, coupled with a concussion, followed a shoulder-to-head collision with Namibian captain Johan Deysel.
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Since then, examinations have been done and we know a little more about the nature of the injury suffered by the captain of the Blues: a maxillozygomatic fracture. This is the cheekbone of the face, whose role is to protect the orbital cavity. The scrum-half was operated on at Toulouse hospital on Friday by Professor Frédéric Lauwers. Two screwed plates were attached to the face of the French international, to help the fracture to heal.
A mask to keep hope alive?
In recent days, a solution has been mentioned that would suggest a return of Dupont for the rest of the competition. A custom-made mask that would correspond to international regulations would protect the fractured area and avoid too great a risk of relapse. This solution, if not perfect, raises all hopes. And this is not a first, since different players have already evolved masked at the highest level. Let's take a look back at different cases.
Best known: Imanol Harinordoquy
During the semi-final of the 2010 Heineken Cup between Biarritz Olympique and Munster Irish, the third row suffered a broken nose. While he thought he could enter the pitch with a custom-made mask, the referee forbade him, telling him that the materials composing the face protection are not allowed by the regulations. The medical staff of Biarritz then hastily made him a foam mask. An imperfect solution, since the one who now officiates as a TV commentator said that he "saw nothing" and that it was not possible to play as a scrum-half with such a device.
Harinordoquy facing Munster JB Autissier / PanoramiC / JB Autissier / Panoramic
Brad Barritt's titanium plate
England international Brad Barritt has also played with face protection, but more recently (2018). It is also a case that is closer to the one we are dealing with, since it was to protect his cheekbone. Playing then with the English club Saracens, the center had suffered a violent elbow during a match against Harlequins. Overmotivated by the idea of playing a Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster a week later, he had a titanium plate placed and was able to take part in the match. He gave hope to French fans on the social network X by tweeting: "All rugby fans in the world hope to see Maestro Antoine Dupont play! Where there's a will, there's a way! ».
A different era
In another time, another French international played with a mask. The second line Michel Palmié, player of Béziers in the 1970s, was nicknamed "Ramses" because of his many bandages. And when we see what his mask looked like, we understand the origin of the nickname. We wish Antoine Dupont to find a prototype a little more recent.
Jeffrey Williams, a similar case
Player of Arcachon, club playing in national 2, the Englishman Jeffrey Williams suffered a similar injury to Antoine Dupont in 2022. In order to be able to play again quickly, he had worn a mask protecting the affected area: "The most important thing is the psychological impact," he explains. We feel protected and it's essential because this type of injury is very striking, we never really forget it. It's the face, it's very sensitive." A case that could serve as a jurisprudence?
Pierre Pagès, another scrum-half
The one who arrived at the LOU this summer as a medical joker had a hell of a mishap during the 2020-2021 season. Playing for the Breton club Vannes, the scrum-half had suffered a big shock, causing five fractures in his face. One at the level of the sinuses, another at the left orbital floor and three others at the face. The injury required an operation involving the installation of a titanium plate. When he returned to the field, he wore a plexiglass mask molded over his face. What, perhaps, inspire the medical staff of the Blues.
Florian Cazenave, masked all his career
Also a scrum-half, the former Perpignan man was injured at the age of 23 during a fall while participating in the feria de Feret. Despite the operation, the young man loses his eye and becomes blind. After a long obstacle course, he managed to play again, first in Italy and then in Pro D2, where he wore the colors of Vannes. He spent most of his career wearing goggles encompassing part of his face, like a ski mask.
Florian Cazenave in the Brive jersey, 2017. Thierry Breton / Thierry Breton / Panoramic