rugby

Huget injury overshadows France joy at World Cup

Yoann Huget was forced off after 56 minutes of Saturday's match at Twickenham
Yoann Huget was forced off after 56 minutes of Saturday's match at Twickenham AFP

France beat Italy in their opening match at the 2015 World Cup but the victory was marred by the news that influential winger Yoann Huget will miss the rest of the tournament due to a serious knee injury.

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France coach Philippe Saint-Andre wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday: "A big thought for Yoann Huget, a model player in terms of his commitment, great guy. We're all with you; (have a) good recovery."

The 28-year-old Toulouse star was tipped to have a big tournament. He was pulled out of the France squad before the last World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 after missing three doping tests, for which he was handed a three-month suspension.

His Toulouse teammate Maxime Medard, who can play at wing or full-back, and Castres centre Remi Lamerat, who began his career at Toulouse, are the favourites to replace Huget for the rest of the tournament.

Huget was forced off after 56 minutes of Saturday's match at Twickenham, the first game of the tournament for the two Six Nations rivals, who are in Pool D alongside Ireland, Canada and Romania.

Huget was running down the wing with ball in hand when he pushed off his right leg to cut inside a defender, only to collapse to the ground, wincing in pain.

He was helped from the field by two members of the French medical staff.

His distress continued as he sat on the bench beside the pitch, while being consoled by various people, including French federation official Serge Blanco, a former France international full-back.

France laid down a statement of intent on Saturday night with a professional constructed win over Italy.

Italy paid the price for their lack of discipline in the first half as Frederic Michalak kicked France into a 15-3 lead.

France showed more elan after the restart and Rabah Slimani touched down from Michalak's stylish kick along the ground.

Giovanbattista Venditti replied with a try for Italy, but veteran prop Nicolas Mas's first try in 81 Tests secured the win for France.

The downside for France was an injury to winger Yoann Huget.

France's next game in Pool D is against Romania at the Olympic Stadium in east London on Wednesday, while Italy face Canada in the northern English city of Leeds next Saturday.

But the key match is set to be France versus Six Nations champions Ireland, who thrashed Canada 50-7 in Cardiff on Saturday. The Pool D runners-up will probably play reigning champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

Saint-Andre said Huget may have suffered a serious knee injury that could end the 28-year-old's World Cup.

"It looks like Yoann Huget has injured his cruciate ligament   this is not the best news," Saint-Andre told ITV Sport after the match.

"He is a very important player and a big player to lose for this team. After that injury, for four or five minutes we were a bit shaky.

"It's very important that we started with a win. We knew how tough Italy can be. We wanted four tries but Italy defended well. We have started very well but we must continue. We have a win, but a bad injury."

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