Following a bitterly disappointing quarter-final exit at the recent World Cup, Antoine Dupont has indicated that his attention has now turned to next year’s Olympic Games in France.
For the first time in his career, the French captain is aiming to join up with the national Sevens squad to secure a home victory in the faster-paced game. Having been the face of France at the recent World Cup, Dupont has time and time again proven himself to be the key talisman for big occasions. His rushed return to the starting lineup after suffering a fractured jaw indicated the sheer importance that the 27-year-old holds in the French ranks.
The France Sevens team has never reached the heights that the 15s team has, but the most recent World Series saw the national side finish in their highest position ever, in fourth place – just five points behind Sevens greats Fiji.
“We have been trying for several months, with the club, the federation, and France sevens, to give me the opportunity and the resources to try and take part in these Olympic Games”, said Dupont. “I now hope to perform well and apply (make selection).”
Dupont was clear that the new venture will affect his time in the 15s game: “We are going to have to make some adjustments. I’m not going to be able to play every match, every weekend, until the end of the season. I’m going to have to make sacrifices to spend time with this team and get used to this special game and discipline.
“When I see the effort that this discipline requires, it’s going to take me some time to adapt, that’s for sure.”
Stade Toulousain coach, Ugo Mola, is convinced of his quality: “It seems that if he plays with the qualities he has, he could be a valuable addition to this competition.
“We all want Antoine Dupont to win trophies, but the World Cup has slipped under his nose. Let’s hope he wins a few with his club and maybe even one with the French sevens team.”
Fellow scrum half Danny Care had the same view, telling the Rugby Union Weekly podcast: “If anyone can go there and be the best player in [sevens] it is him,”
“He is the perfect sevens player and will be a joke. He will be incredible, people won’t touch him. He will score and set up tries.
“He is the best player in the world and it is something that means a lot to him and is a home Olympics so imagine how special that would be.”
Florian Grill, president of the Federation Francaise de Rugby detailed how important the transition could be for the country: “Antoine has a very rugby attitude, he doesn’t want to be dropped in. He knows that, in a rugby team, you earn your place,
“If he makes it to the Games – and he has said he wants to – he will be a superb headliner, even if we will have to do without him for the Six Nations tournament. But, honestly, what a great image for rugby sevens and for the country. He’ll be an important standard-bearer.”
Despite needing to alter his schedule to focus on the Olympic Games, Dupont has emphasised that he will still be around for the main events: “I still have ambitions in 15s. I don’t want to retire from the sport just yet, don’t worry,” he said.
“I’ll be playing in the play-offs with Stade Toulousain, and I hope to be able to lift the Brennus Shield again. I can spend time with sevens but also keep my objectives with Stade Toulousain.”