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Monday Nov 2, 2020

Is Dupont now up there with De Klerk as the world's form number nine?

There’s no denying that Antoine Dupont is a key cog in almost everything France does. The scrum-half is a ubiquitous player and a nightmare to play against. Whether it’s quick distribution, precise box-kicking or the sublime support lines, an on-form Dupont is scintillating.

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And the good news for France – and bad news for opponents – is that he rarely has an off-day.

Even when considering his embarrassing moment against England on the opening weekend, where he kicked the ball dead a minute too early [which ultimately cost France the title as England snatched a late losing bonus point], Dupont is the real deal.

It’s not just the control, it’s the overall influence of Dupont which drives France forward. With Ntamack outside him and a ferocious pack which includes the likes of Grégory Alldritt, Julien Marchand, Charles Olivon and Paul Willemse, the diminutive nine has the perfect platform to assert his dominance on the game.

There are similarities between Dupont and South Africa’s Faf de Klerk, namely that stature doesn’t seem to put either player off when it comes to physicality. De Klerk has become known around the world as the small scrum-half who put Ireland prop Jack McGrath on his backside, and who sent England back-rower Nathan Hughes backward at a rate of knots.

Although, it’s not just that. It’s also about game management and always being on the shoulder of a line breaker. De Klerk has a trusty boot to get South Africa out of trouble or just plain territory.

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Dupont does that as well. De Klerk scores a lot of his tries either by sniping through the defensive line or running ahead of the gain line in anticipation of a break, which Dupont executed perfectly against Ireland last weekend too.

Midi Olympique and L’Équipe both talk about a “Golden Generation” being born out of Galthié’s new crop of players and with the Petit Général in charge, it’s no wonder the country and the wider rugby community are relieved to see France return to their best.

The Southern Hemisphere has Faf de Klerk as the stand-out half-back – you can add Aaron Smith to that as well – with both asserting immense influence on how the game is played.

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In Smith and De Klerk particularly, the attacking nouse is potent and the same traits are seen in Dupont. The difference between the French nine and the two others is that both Smith and De Klerk are World Cup winners.

Who knows, if France maintain their form and learn to keep cool under pressure, Dupont could well join them in that prestigious club.

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