The man in the moulded mask

By Lucky Maree

It appears that when France’s scrumhalf returns to the World Cup, he will probably be wearing a moulded mask to protect the damaged bones in his face.

By the sound of it, he will return for France’s quarter-final match, probably against South Africa or Ireland. 

The rules of World Rugby allow for face masks that are not thicker than 5 mm and don’t have any hard objects (such as the famous steel mouth guard on Hannibal Lecter’s mask in Silence of the Lambs).

How wearing a mask will affect his play remains to be seen. In all probability, the great player that Dupont is, he will not allow the injury or the mask to hinder his play.

Masks are not new in rugby. South African Sevens player Impi Visser wore a mask earlier this year at the Los Angeles Sevens tournament after a head collision.

In the meantime, the World Rugby disciplinary panel has thrown the book at the Namibian captain Johan Deysel for the collision between him and Dupont in their pool match on 21 September.

The panel initially handed down a 12-match ban — yes, a 12-match ban — that was reduced by 50% due to mitigating factors such as his disciplinary record and apology to Dupont.

Disciplinary record?

Deysel has an impeccable record as a player. His conduct as Namibian captain, in what has been a tough tournament for his country, has been exemplary.  

The fact that he apologised to Dupont is a tribute to the man, not an indication of his desire to suck up to World Rugby.

And one final insult. He has to go to tackle school. Deysel plays at eighthman, one of the highest collision areas on a rugby field. He has no record of bad tackles. Owen Farrell went to tackle school because he didn’t know how to tackle (he still doesn’t) — but what is Deysel supposed to learn at tackle school?

World Rugby’s panel said the tackle was made worse by the “degree of recklessness involved in the offence, the vulnerability of the victim player and the significant injury to him”.

In applying the big hammer, did the panel consider the fact that the “victim player” was the untouchable Antoine Dupont? Did they consider that Johan Deysel plays for the lowly Namibian side and therefore won’t have to worry about an outcry from the rugby world?

Of course not! They would have applied the same measures if (say) Johnny Sexton was the offending player, wouldn’t they?

Pictured above: Antoine Dupont in a mask he could wear on the field 

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