Slippery stairs, spider bite, tackles and bad luck knock out players at the Rugby World Cup

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France's Antoine Dupont receives treatment after taking a knock to the head during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between France and Namibia at the Stade de Marseille in Marseille, France, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Since Antoine Dupont broke a cheekbone in a tackle at the Rugby World Cup, France has been feeding crumbs of positivity about its talismanic captain.

Surgery two weeks ago went well, he's rejoined the squad, he's training lightly under medical supervision. His rehabilitation is on track, the tournament host team tells worried French supporters.

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The severity of the fracture hasn't been detailed and Dupont's surgeon will decide on Monday when the 2021 world player of the year can boost training.

The outcome of previous players who have suffered broken cheekbones suggests Dupont's availability will be dicey even for the final at the end of this month. Sam Cane's injury last October made him miss New Zealand's last three tests of 2022. Teammate Brodie Retallick took six weeks to return to action in August last year.

“Depending on how bad it is,” Retallick said after Dupont was hurt, “it's a tough injury. I've still got some numbness in my face.”

At least Dupont is still in the tournament. Many who have been hurt aren't.

Winger Makazole Mapimpi was the latest of South Africa's 2019 champions to go home after breaking his eye socket and cheekbone against Tonga last Sunday. He followed Malcolm Marx, the hooker who tore his right ACL in training after the opening Scotland win, and whom the Springboks are having trouble replacing.

If South Africa reaches the final, director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has promised to fly both of them to Paris.

Outside back Max Jorgensen was set to become the youngest Australian at 19 to debut at a Rugby World Cup, but after coming back from a season-ending torn MCL in May he broke his fibula in training in Lyon before getting a game.

The day after his Rugby World Cup debut off the bench against South Africa, Scotland hooker Dave Cherry slipped on stairs at the team hotel and was concussed out of the tournament. His replacement, Stuart McInally, who captained the Scots at the 2019 tournament and was due to retire after this tournament, suffered a neck injury after a training session and had to return home. His Scotland career finished on 49 caps.

“It's just bad luck,” coach Gregor Townsend said.

A spider bite did in Namibia back-rower Johan Retief after he started their first three games. The bite on his chest at their Aix-les-Bains hotel became infected.

“Quite a weird one,” coach Allister Coetzee said of the injury.

Teammate Le Roux Malan dislocated his ankle and snapped his tibia in a sliding tackle against New Zealand and underwent surgery within three hours with local anaesthetic while awake.

Australia captain Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou suffered training injuries within 48 hours after playing just once. The Wallabies never recovered from the double blow. Skelton's previous Rugby World Cup in 2015 was also cut short by a shoulder injury after two games.

The Wallabies have finished their pool games but remain in France while they wait for Fiji to knock them out or not on Sunday. If they advance, though, they won't have flyhalf Carter Gordon and lock Nick Frost, who are heading home with knee injuries.

Former Italy captain Luca Bigi and Japan fullback Semisi Masirewa appeared to suffer similar groin injuries in the same week.

At least they all played in the Rugby World Cup.

Every injury is a hard-luck story, and some are harder than others.

France lock Paul Willemse withdrew just days before the tournament with a knee injury. A groin injury forced him to miss the 2019 tournament, too.

Two Fijians who played in the historic win over England at Twickenham in the warmups never got to play in France. Flyhalf Caleb Muntz injured a knee in non-contact training and prop Jone Koroiduadua aggravated a knee injury.

Two others who came to France and suffered tournament-ending training injuries before a game were New Zealand back Emoni Narawa and Chile back Nicolas Garafulic.

Wing Anthony Watson, who helped England reach the 2019 final, missed his third Rugby World Cup due to a calf injury.

Georgia has had to replace five players during the tournament, Tonga four, and Romania three. Long-time Oaks captain Mihai Macovei, who debuted in 2006 and inspired their greatest Rugby World Cup comeback in 2015, was due to lead the team in France until a calf muscle tore in their last warmup. Macovei was reportedly fit for the final pool game against Tonga this weekend but not brought in, so he retired on Monday.


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