The air in France will be turning blue with profanities, following the revelation that captain Thierry Dusautoir will be out for months.
The air in France will be turning blue with profanities, following the revelation that captain and star player Thierry Dusautoir will be ruled out for four months.
As a result of an injury sustained for his club last Saturday, Dusautoir will not compete for his national side during the Six Nations tournament. The French skipper sustained a tear to a tendon in his right biceps during Toulouse's 16-6 victory over the Italian side Zebre in the Heineken Cup.
Why so serious?
Dusautoir is a widely loved, talismanic figure in French Rugby. In the 2011 World Cup Final, his own efforts seemed to be the only thing standing between his side and a sound beating at the hands of the All Blacks.
Dusautoir's efforts (which included 22 tackles and France's only try of the match) maintained his team's dignity in defeat, and had shouts of his name echoing around the bars of Auckland throughout the game. It was no surprise when he took the IRB International Player of the Year gong later in the year, becoming only the second Frenchman ever to do so.
The stakes are particularly high for France in light of last year's Wooden Spoon-winning sixth place finish in the Six Nations.
A proud rugby nation, the French would expect their side to be contesting the title, rather than wallowing below the likes of Scotland and Italy. Dusautoir's loss will be felt particularly keenly in light of other gaping holes in the French side. With Morgan Parra, Camille Lopez and Sofiane Guitoune all absent, the armour is coming off France's squad like meat off the bone of a slow cooked frog's leg.
“The amount of serious injuries since the start of the year is worrying. Thierry was back to his best level and had a leading role in the squad,” said France coach Philippe Saint-AndrÃ©.
What is the impact on France's chances?
Anything can happen in the lead-up to the Six Nations tournament, and it's likely that the other teams in the contest will also face the challenge of making up for injuries to key players.
Nevertheless, a France side without Dusautoir looks a much easier side to beat, and this will be reflected in the odds for the tournament – you can keep track of them at Bookmakers.co.uk over the coming months.
France are way down at 14/5 to win it, whilst reigning champs Wales are hotly tipped at 2/1, with England not far behind them at 5/2.