Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will miss his country's World Cup opener against Namibia on Sept. 9 after being struck in the face in Thursday's warmup game against Bayonne, Irish team offcials said yesterday.
The 28-year center, regarded as one of the finest backs in the world, sustained a fracture to his nose when he was punched during the match which the Irish won 42-6.
"Following an X-ray and scan of Brian O'Driscoll's injury, it has been confirmed that he has sustained a fracture to his sinus and a deep laceration under his right eye," a statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union said. "This is not as serious as initially feared and the injury will not require any surgery."
"The recovery period for the injury is three-four weeks which will rule O'Driscoll out of the warm-up game against Italy next Friday [Aug. 24] and Ireland's first Rugby World Cup pool game against Namibia [Sept. 9]," the statement said.
The Irish are optimistic he will be fit enough to play in his country's second World Cup game against Georgia in Bordeaux on Sept. 15 and crucially after that for the two crunch games against France and Argentina.
The top two teams from the group qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition.
O'Driscoll had to leave the field in Bayonne in the 62nd minute of what had been a bruising game when he was hit in the face by New Zealand lock Mikarea Tewhata during a general melee among players.
Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan said that the match had been extremely tough and physical with numerous off-the-ball incidents.
"There were a few foul incidents out there and that's a pity. But there is nothing we can do about that if that is the way they want to play. We can only control the way we want to play," he said.
Irish team officials said they did not intend to take the matter any further but said they would welcome an inquiry by the French Rugby Federation.
In a fraught encounter played in front of a capacity crowd of almost 15,000 at Bayonne's Jean-Dauger Stadium, Ireland ran out 42-6 winners thanks to six tries, including a Dennis Hickie hat-trick and a brace from Paul O'Connell.
Andrew Trimble also crossed for a try while Ronan O'Gara contributed 12 points with the boot.
Bayonne's only points came from a first-half penalty and drop-goal from former France international center Richard Dourthe.