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Dupont ‘ready to suffer’ as France captain returns for South Africa quarter-final

Antoine Dupont said he is “ready to suffer” against South Africa in Sunday’s quarter-final after being recalled by France three weeks after breaking a cheekbone. The scrum-half’s return is the only change to the XV made by the head coach, Fabien Galthié, from last week’s win over Italy, with Maxime Lucu moving to the replacements’ bench.

Dupont, the captain, confirmed he will wear protective headgear at the Stade de France against the world champions having “progressively” built up intensity in training since his injury against Namibia, and insisted he is 100% fit in a huge boost to Les Bleus’ hopes.

Antoine Dupont injury overshadows France’s record 96-0 win over NamibiaRead more

“In matches with these levels of intensity, there’s always pain, whether physical or mental,” Dupont said. “International matches are always tough. We have to be ready to suffer to achieve what we want … If we’re not ready for that, we’re not ready to go where we want to go.

“I didn’t feel any pressure from the staff,” Dupont said of his return. “If I’m playing, it’s because all the lights are green and I have the surgeon’s approval. There was no forced decision. We respected the deadlines.” Regarding the scrum cap, Dupont said: “It’s the surgeon’s wish and he suggested it. I have no problem with it.”

Galthié said selecting a squad to face the Springboks was like “a game of chess”, having opted for a 6-2 bench split of forwards to backs, with Sekou Macalou added to the 23.

“We treated the subject in a very relaxed way,” Galthié said of the decision to recall Dupont. “We didn’t push anything in any direction, and we treated it with serenity … Antoine has had time to recuperate.”

Asked if it is the most important match of his tenure, Galthié said: “It is certainly the most important match because it’s the next one. The past is just a memory.”

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Antoine Dupont receives treatment before having to leave the field after breaking a cheekbone in France’s game against Namibia on 21 September.Antoine Dupont receives treatment before having to leave the field after breaking a cheekbone in France’s game against Namibia on 21 September. Photograph: Paquot Baptiste/Abaca/Shutterstock

The flanker Charles Ollivon was asked if France have a plan to protect Dupont: “No,” he said. “We don’t have a specific strategy to protect Antoine. Our mission is always to protect our half-backs, and we will have a lot of work to do in that area.”

The fly-half Matthieu Jalibert said: “The fact Antoine is back gives us a lot of confidence. He’s very important for our defensive system as well as our attack. He puts fear into the opposition – they try to find solutions to counter him – and that gives us a bit more space. We are very pleased to have him back.”

South Africa also named their squad on Friday, with Manie Libbok starting at No 10 and Cobus Reinach at scrum-half, and a 5-3 bench split of forwards to backs. Duane Vermeulen is preferred to Jasper Wiese at No 8, with 15 of the 23 having featured in the 2019 final win against England.

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Both half-back selections contain an element of surprise: Handrè Pollard was widely expected to return having been a late call-up but is named on the bench. Libbok’s kicking is a concern for the Boks, who missed four shots at goal in the Pool B defeat by Ireland. In view of France’s miserly defence – the hosts conceded 32 points in their pool – taking points when they are available will be essential.

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Quick Guide

France v South Africa teams

Show

Stade de France, 8pm BST Sunday 15 October

France Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Louis Bielle-Biarrey; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (capt); Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Thibaud Flament, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt. Replacements Pierre Bourgarit, Reda Wardi, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, François Cros, Sekou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana.

South Africa Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Manie Libbok, Cobus Reinach; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen. Replacements Deon Fourie, Ox Nché, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Handrè Pollard, Willie le Roux.

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“If it’s 8-0, 7-1, 6-2, 5-3, it falls under team selection,” said the Springboks head coach, Jacques Nienaber, of the squad’s balance. “We have selected a team, irrespective of the bench, that we think will give us the best opportunity of a victory.

“If we select Cobus [Reinach] or Faf [de Klerk], I don’t think there would be a lot of raised eyebrows. France have got a very interesting kicking game and we feel using those two guys will give us the best opportunity. For this specific game, we feel Duane is the guy we will need [at No 8], but that doesn’t mean Jasper won’t play in the semi-final.”

“They’ve been watching us for two weeks now,” Galthié said of South Africa. “I think they know us very well. Their decision to field a rather unusual lineup with a few changes and their choice of a 5-3 formation is well-founded, tactical, strategic and well thought. It’s a game of chess.”