An injury to talisman Antoine Dupont marred France's biggest-ever rugby victory when they ran in 14 tries, including a hat-trick for Damian Penaud, to crush Namibia 96-0 in Marseille.
The hosts set a new record to maintain their perfect start to the World Cup, but the sight of captain Dupont depart early with a potential serious facial injury that could impact their bid to go all the way.
Namibia have a try chalked off and a yellow card for Johan Deysel - since upgraded to red - after a head-high hit on Antoine Dupont— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) September 21, 2023
The French scrum half has been replaced
📺 Watch France v Namibia live on @rte2and @RTEplayerhttps://t.co/X7cSkZilkC pic.twitter.com/6iTgxfWSzK
Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthie had again made sweeping changes following a laboured victory over Uruguay, which was in stark contrast to the impressive performance which saw off three-time world champions New Zealand in the tournament's opening match.
France wasted little time in going on the offensive as a crossfield kick from Dupont, returning to skipper the side, picked out Penaud, who went over in the right corner in the seventh minute.
It remained one-way traffic as Jonathan Danty scored after being set up by a fine inside ball from Louis Bielle-Biarrey before a blistering break down the right saw a string of passes put flanker Charles Ollivon clear to run in.
Penaud weaved through to secure the bonus-point try inside just 22 minutes, with Thomas Ramos again making the conversion.
Scrum-half Dupont added another himself before his sublime angled kick-on-the-run found Bielle-Biarrey charging into the left corner as France coasted into the break with a commanding 54-0 lead.
HT: France 54-0 Namibia— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) September 21, 2023
France pass the half century mark on the stroke of half-time
Louis Bielle-Biarrey fetches Dupont's cross-kick to go over in the corner
📺 Watch France v Namibia live on @rte2 and @RTEplayerhttps://t.co/X7cSkZilkC #rterugby #rwc2023 pic.twitter.com/eD5UVndxfE
Namibia - who had conceded 18 tries in their previous two Pool A matches - thought they were on the scoresheet when substitute Divan Rossouw ran clear after latching onto an interception.
The try, though, was ruled out by the TMO for an incident in the build-up for a clash involving Johan Deysel on Dupont.
'That's a horrendous tackle, that's a red straight away... And potentially the best player in the world's World Cup is in doubt now beacuse of a reckless challenge' @bernardjackman and @HannahTyrrell21 on the incident which forced Antoine Dupont off early#rterugby #rwc2023 pic.twitter.com/LWkm2FgqSG— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) September 21, 2023
Welwitschias captain Deysel was shown a yellow card and sent to the sin-bin for head-on-head contact with Dupont, who went off for assessment on what looked could be a serious cheekbone injury. Following a bunker review, the card was upgraded to red.
Baptiste Couilloud wasted little time after coming on as a replacement, going over from a maul as France soon further extended their advantage.
Couilloud raced clear onto an interception for what looked another quick breakaway try but it was ruled out for a late tackle off the ball by French prop Reda Wardi.
As the hour mark approached, Penaud dived over to completed his hat-trick with France's 10th try before Bielle-Biarrey sprinted clear across into the right corner and Ollivon then burst through the middle.
Namibia were cut open again by more quick French passing, with Melvyn Jaminet surging clear with the conversion bringing up a new record score, passing the 87-10 win over the same opponents at the 2007 World Cup.
France were aw arded a late penalty try after a maul collapsed, with Jason Benade sent to the sin-bin to compound a forgettable evening for Namibia as the partisan Marseille crowd revelled at the final whistle.