Rugby World Cup Daily: Dupont the new man in the plastic mask

How France plan to cope with loss of captain Dupont (1:02)

French players Vincent Arthur and Reda Wardi discuss the mood in the camp following the injury to captain Antoine Dupont vs. Namibia. (1:02)

These daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the World Cup as well as betting lines, what to watch for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from France.

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THE LEAD: Magnifique! Dupont on track for quarters

France superstar and skipper Antoine Dupont is recovering well from facial surgery, raising hope the No. 9 could be back in time for what looms as a massive quarterfinal for the tournament hosts.

Dupont suffered a fractured cheekbone in France's hammering of Namibia, after Johan Deysel got his tackle horribly wrong and collected the scrum-half head-on-head. Deysel has since been suspended for six weeks, down to five if he completes "tackle school", while the French people wait and hope that their little talisman will make a fast recovery.

There have also been reports that Dupont could wear a special facial shield to help guard against further injury, though any covering would need to adhere to World Rugby regulations which state any protective cover cannot be more than 5cm thick.

Dupont will rejoin the French camp on Sunday which will give him the best part of two weeks to prepare for the clash with either South Africa, Ireland or Scotland, with Les Bleus still having their final clash against Italy in between.

"Antoine is doing very well, the surgery went very well," France assistant coach William Servat told reporters.

"He's obviously resting at home. He will be back for Sunday's training. Friday and Saturday being days off, he will be able to come back within this time frame."

France have some decent back-up options in Maxime Lucu and Baptiste Couillord, but neither player possesses the game-breaking ability that make Dupont one of the best, if not the best, players in the world.

"It's good news, we have to be optimistic," France back-rower Francois Cros said of Dupont's recovery.

"But we are going to wait for his return to talk to him. Antoine is the only one who will be able to tell us if he feels ready to play."


Barnstorming Bundee leaving his sizeable imprint on World Cup

Rampaging Ireland centre Bundee Aki has had a magnificent start to the Rugby World Cup and leads the way in several attacking metrics after three rounds, finding the form that has made him such an icon back home there is a hamburger named in his honour.

The sight of Aki crashing his way through South Africa, one of the best defences in the competition, in Saturday's 13-8 win in Paris not only had fans chanting his name, but also produced the winning moment as his burst led to a try for wing Mack Hansen.

As he stepped up to receive his deserved man of the match award and the Cranberries' classic song 'Zombie' rang around the Stade de France, Irish fans gleefully sang, "in your head, in your head, Bundee! Bundee! Bundee!"

It is a sign of the huge affection for the New Zealand-born inside centre, who saw opportunities in his homeland limited as he came up against admittedly world class rivals for the All Blacks jersey in Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams.

He moved to Ireland to play for Connacht and after serving his residency period, made his international debut in 2017.

After Pool B wins over Romania, Tonga and South Africa, Aki has four tries and leads the World Cup in metres made with ball in hand (487), carries made (53), defenders beaten (22) and break passes (5), showing his incredible power, pace and ability to shake off defenders.

"What you see from Bundee is real physicality, real energy, both sides of the ball (attack and defence)," Ireland assistant coach John Fogarty said.

"Bundee is a great character, he does a huge amount of work in preparation with that centre group and the coaches, so he is very clear in his mind around what he needs to do in a game." Reuters

Wallabies using hurt to fuel preparations for Portugal

The Wallabies are still coming to terms with their "gutting" 40-6 defeat by Wales, but with their World Cup campaign not 100 percent dead and buried just yet, their focus is squarely on Sunday's final pool opponent, Portugal.

Australia returned to training on Tuesday having had Monday off to lick their wounds following the embarrassing loss in Lyon, one which has in all likelihood ended their campaign unless Fiji slip to back-to-back losses in their final two pool games.

But when there is hope, there is still work to be done, and Australia have set about nailing their preparations for Sunday's clash in Saint-Etienne.

"The best [thing] to turn it around [is realising] we have another game," Wallabies fullback Andrew Kellaway said. "It probably sounds like it's a cliche and a bit stupid but it might be my last game, you never know. For me that was a big switch, in terms of looking back into game mode.

"But in terms of the loss, how did I deal with it? Probably not that well. Gutted, right? It's the pinnacle of our game and we weren't able to perform and we let a lot of people down. How did we feel? We felt exactly how that would look from the outside.

"But Eddie has been great and the coaching staff fantastic, reminding us that we have another game to go here. A big pat on the back from them because they are probably hurting as much, if not more, than the rest of us. I can't applaud them enough."

Wallabies assistant Dan Palmer confirmed both skipper Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou would not be fit for the game, meaning the hulking forward duo's World Cup campaign will be over unless the impressive Fijians fall in a heap.

Given Fiji face Georgia 24 hours earlier, Australia will have a fair idea of whether they still have a "pulse" when they run out onto the Stade Geoffrey Guichard on Sunday. But after a few days when they have been hammered from pillar to post, and the recriminations are already happening across the Australian game, the Wallabies will want to turn in a decent performance regardless.

Meanwhile, the speculation around Eddie Jones' alleged meeting with Japan continues to rumble away both in France and back at home in Australia.

Asked about the report, which ran in Sunday's Sydney Morning Herald and created a firestorm of comment and concern thereafter, Palmer embraced the same line as Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh and chairman Hamish McLennan, that he could only trust Jones' word.

"Of course I take him for his word and at the moment that's speculation," Palmer said. "He's a professional coach and if he's had a conversation with somebody else that's his business, it hasn't affected us at all.

Namibia coach calls for change to avoid history repeating itself

Namibia's hopes of a first ever Rugby World Cup win ended in defeat as coach Allister Coetzee bemoaned his side's discipline in their 36-26 Pool A loss to Uruguay on Wednesday, and said the team needs to start preparing for the next tournament now.

Namibia led 20-12 at halftime, but two yellow cards and a red in the second period sealed their fate as they ran out of gas, and players, against the South Americans.

"Uruguay took control of the game and that is test match rugby. When you concede 12 penalties and three cards, it is very difficult," Coetzee told reporters.

"These are things that cost you and we can't hide (away) from it if we are not up to it. But I must commend the team for playing until the end. Defensively there were errors in (tackle) technique in being too upright.

"It is quite difficult to swallow but in the end Uruguay deserved to win."

Namibia's record losing streak at World Cups now stands at 26 since their debut in 1999 as they head home after four games in 19 days, the toughest schedule of any team in the tournament.

Coetzee says unless lessons are learnt and the correct structures are put in place domestically to boost players physically and unearth new talent, history will continue to repeat itself.

"We have got to make sure we build now at the set-piece, give our front rankers a programme where these blokes and the youngsters can develop," he said.

"We are a small country with not a lot of depth so we need a high performance plan to be put in place for these guys. That is the next step after this World Cup.

"We can't start to build once we have qualified, we have to put these things in place next year. We need to blood young players, there needs to be a programme with a timeline."


Japan vs. Samoa

TAB (tab.com.au): Japan $2.40, +3.5 $1.95, Samoa $1.58, -3.5 $1.85

Pool D remains the most intriguing group in France with four teams fighting for the quarterfinals, with England all but secure in first place. The loser of this game will bow out of calculations, with Japan to face Argentina, and Samoa to battle England, in the final week. The Brave Blossoms will be coming into this one fresh, having sat out the third week of competition, while Samoa will likely still be kicking themselves for a lacklustre showing against the Pumas. The Samoans only lost 18-10, but their inability to hold onto the ball in key moments really stung them in the end. They certainly have the power runners to worry Japan, though coach Selaila Mapusua has made one big change in demoting former All Blacks back-rower Steven Luatua to the bench. Japan, meanwhile, will again look to move the bigger Samoan pack around the paddock, playing their up-tempo game and quick ruck ball that makes the most of their fleet-footed outside backs. Samoa won this clash in the Pacific Nations Cup 24-22 just a few weeks ago, and there are likely to be few points in it once more.


Cane benched for All Blacks return

All Blacks captain Sam Cane will come of the bench on his return from injury, as coach Ian Foster welcomed back some significant cavalry for their key clash with Italy.

Shannon Frizell and Jordie Barrett will start in Lyon, while Cane and Tyrel Lomax will make their returns off the bench. Cane is being eased back off the bench behind Dalton Papali'i, who offers a little more in the loose and with ball in hand than his skipper.

Ardie Savea will continue to captain the side with Cane named among the replacements.

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New Zealand can't revel in Wallabies' World Cup stinker

Kicking Australian sports teams while they are down has long formed a favoured Kiwi pastime.On this occasion, though, there are instead pangs of sympathy and dread as Australian rugby contemplates its bone rattling rock-bottom moment.