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Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeRugbyAntoine Dupont's Olympics dream divides France

Antoine Dupont’s Olympics dream divides France


Antoine Dupont was topped the High 14 Participant of the 12 months at a glittering awards ceremony in Paris on Monday. It was the second time in three seasons that the Toulouse scrum-half has been awarded the honour, however there have been a number of in France a bit stunned that Gregory Alldritt, the La Rochelle N0 8, didn’t decide up the gong given his excellent performances final season.

However Dupont is the face of French rugby, and now not simply of the 15-a-side sport. After profitable his High 14 accolade, the France captain confirmed to the media that he will probably be forsaking the 2024 Six Nations in favour of enjoying Sevens, a transfer that he hopes will culminate in his bagging a medal in subsequent summer season’s Paris Olympics.

“For all sports activities followers, the Olympic Video games are legendary,” he stated. “To have the ability to host this occasion in France goes to be an unbelievable celebration.” He added that he was honoured to be given the possibility “to be a part of it and, above all, to be in with an opportunity of profitable an Olympic medal.”

Not everybody shares that sentiment. Based on French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique, France’s head coach, Fabien Galthie, tried to persuade Dupont to stick with the sport he is aware of finest.
Antoine Dupont
Antoine Dupont is eager to deliver his abilities to bear in Sevens, however his choice has not happy everybody (Photograph Mike Hewitt/Getty Photographs)

One wonders what the squad feels about their captain jetting off to Vancouver and Los Angeles in February and March to play Sevens. There can also be mutterings inside the Sevens squad with the regulars questioning who will probably be sacrificed for Dupont. Somebody is about for crushing disappointment.

Toulouse received’t miss out that a lot as Dupont will probably be away for less than February and March, as he would have been had he performed within the Six Nations. There’s a distinction, nevertheless, in his absence, one that may have ramifications for Toulouse within the enterprise finish of the season.

As a substitute of enjoying within the Six Nations, Dupont will probably be enjoying Sevens, studying new abilities and adapting his health to a sport that makes completely different bodily calls for to 15s. Absolutely even a expertise like Dupont received’t be capable to slot straight again into the High 14 after two months of Sevens?

I feel he’ll put an finish to the talk in his first few tournaments. He’s the very best participant on the planet and he’ll earn his place

Paul Bonnefond has performed over 100 occasions for France 7s whereas additionally showing for Lyon and Castres within the High 14. He has his doubts that Dupont could make the transition in such a short while. “He has above-average rugby and bodily qualities, however for my part six months would be the minimal adaptation interval wanted.”

Dupont is giving himself two months, then returning to the High 14, earlier than rejoining the France 7s squad in June for the Olympic Video games the next month in Paris.

Nonetheless, Bonnefond understands the reasoning behind Dupont’s transfer, which has the assist of the French Rugby Federation (FFR). “If [France] had received tournaments, we’d have requested ourselves why herald new gamers,” defined Bonnefond. “That’s the place Antoine Dupont can add loads of worth. There will not be 50 Antoine Duponts on the planet, and I feel he’ll put an finish to the talk in his first few tournaments. He’s the very best participant on the planet and he’ll earn his place.”

Antoine Dupont meets French president Emmanuel Macron
Dupont has publicly supported French president Emmanuel Macron, who’s eager for France to host a profitable Olympics (Photograph by Ludovic Marin/AFP through Getty Photographs)

It’s not arduous to image the affect Dupont may have within the Sevens, bringing to bear his imaginative and prescient, precision, inventiveness and blistering acceleration. Few in France suppose he’ll flop within the shorter format, nevertheless it’s the precept that has upset some inside the sport.

“I perceive what the Olympics can do for rugby however not enjoying within the Six Nations, that’s powerful,” stated the previous France hooker Vincent Moscato on his weekly radio rugby present. “The Six Nations is sacred. Rugby was invented for this competitors.”

One other former French worldwide, Denis Charvet, additionally described the Six Nations as “sacred” and centered his ire on the FFR for agreeing to Dupont’s change. “The Olympic Video games are magnificent…however rugby on the Olympics shouldn’t be the 100m. It doesn’t resonate in the identical approach. He’s taking an enormous danger.”

In Charvet’s view, the French squad has little probability of profitable an Olympic medal, definitely not gold, and so what’s the purpose when he might be inspiring France to a Six Nations Grand Slam. “We’d like Antoine Dupont, it’s not the identical French crew with out him.”

It’s a sound argument. France’s quarter-final defeat by South Africa in final month’s World Cup left the squad shattered; morale is low and now they may go into the Six Nations with out their chief and inspiration.

When Britain hosted the 2012 Olympics they received a document 65 medals, together with 29 golds, and France concern that in distinction they might be humiliated subsequent summer season.

However the reality is that the French Olympic Workforce additionally want Dupont. Within the 2020 Tokyo Video games (held in 2021) they received 33 medals, their poorest tally this century, and of their 10 golds, half had been received in judo and handball, not probably the most glamorous occasions.

Within the latest World Athletics Championships, the French crew collected a solitary silver medal, ending twenty seventh within the medal desk behind Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic. Workforce GB completed seventh with 10 medals.

When Britain hosted the 2012 Olympics they received a document 65 medals, together with 29 golds, and France concern that in distinction they might be humiliated subsequent summer season. There are few family names within the French Olympic squad, aside from Teddy Riner, a triple gold medallist in judo. They desperately lack a Jessica Ennis, Chris Hoy or Mo Farah, a winner and a character. Therefore the decision to Dupont.

Antoine Dupont holds his hands on his head
Dupont, the face of the World Cup, was distraught after France’s quarter-final exit (Photograph Xavier Laine/Getty Photographs)

President Emmanuel Macron is buddies with Dupont – the latter publicly supported him in final yr’s election – and one might surprise if the president has had a phrase behind the scenes to encourage the scrum-half to make the change.

Dupont will definitely put bums on seats subsequent summer season, and never simply Gallic derrieres. He’s box-office, a once-in-a-generation expertise who rugby followers wish to see within the flesh. It’s rumoured within the French media that different Les Bleus stars might comply with, notably Arthur Vincent, Sekou Macalou and Damian Penaud. Would that be clever? One defection is tolerable; 4 would anger Galthie and the Sevens squad, who’ve dreamed of enjoying in entrance of their dwelling crowd for years.

It could be churlish to begrudge Dupont his choice. He has by no means given something lower than 100 per cent for his membership and nation in latest seasons, and if he can pull off a minor miracle and get France onto the rostrum subsequent summer season, who in France will care if he missed one Six Nations marketing campaign?

A break from the membership and nation treadmill may do Dupont some good and permit him to return subsequent season fitter, more healthy and stronger, to paraphrase the Olympic motto.

It could additionally do him some good. Dupont appears to have taken France’s World Cup heartbreak tougher than most. That’s not stunning. He was the captain, the figurehead, the person whom the nation had been led to imagine by a partisan press would raise the Webb Ellis Cup on 28 October.

Dupont might have purchased into the hype and the deflation he feels has been evident in his latest performances for Toulouse. The spark isn’t there. He seems flat, even a bit disillusioned.

A break from the membership and nation treadmill may do him some good and permit him to return subsequent season fitter, more healthy and stronger, to paraphrase the Olympic motto.



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