France lose yet another top player to injury before Rugby World Cup

Jared Wright
Paul Willemse of France greets his supporters at the end of the 2023 Six Nations, rugby union match between Italy and France on February 5, 2023 at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy -

Paul Willemse of France greets his supporters.

France have been dealt yet another injury blow ahead of the Rugby World Cup, this time to lock Paul Willemse.

It’s another setback for the hosts, who have lost several players to injury in the build-up to the tournament.

First-choice fly-half Romain Ntamack ruptured cruciate ligaments in the warm-up match against Scotland, ruling him out for the entire tournament.

That was followed by loosehead prop Cyril Baille being ruled out of the opener against the All Blacks during the same game.

Then, in their final World Cup warm-up match against Australia, star centre Jonathan Danty sustained a hamstring injury that will see him miss the clash against New Zealand, too.

Paul Willemse adds to France’s injury woes

France Rugby have confirmed that Willemse has been ruled out of the tournament.

The lock sustained the thigh injury while performing the training program the coaches gave the players while they were given a break before the tournament.

Willemse has re-injured the same thigh, which has been troublesome for him in recent seasons.

He has suffered several muscle injuries over the past year, which has seen him play just ten Top 14 matches for Montpellier last season and meant he missed France’s November internationals last year.

The players will regroup in Paris on Saturday ahead of the tournament opener the following Friday.

Willemse has been replaced in the 33-man squad by his Montpellier clubmate Bastien Chalureau. He has been added to France’s 12-man standby list.

Cameron Woki, Romain Taofifenua and Thibaud Flament are among the contenders for the starting lock roles against the All Blacks.

France’s Rugby World Cup Pool A fixtures

Friday 8 September France v New Zealand – 8.15 pm, Stade de France, Paris
Thursday 14 September France v Uruguay – 8 pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Thursday 21 Sept France v Namibia – 8pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Friday 6 October France v Italy – 8 pm, Parc OL, Lyon

READ MORE: Power Rankings heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup