Everyone is waiting for him. The confirmation. The demonstration. Of his ability to almost alone rock a match. To mystify the defenses. To always seem well placed. To be defended like a starving man. To be Antoine Dupont, the nugget of the XV of France that all his opponents look with a worried eye.
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The Blues of rugby, who begin their autumn tour at the Stade de France on Saturday 6 November against Argentina, are not lacking in talent, but it is his name that comes up in all conversations. Especially since the scrum-half of the Toulouse Stadium inaugurates his captain’s costume by ensuring the interim of Charles Ollivon, injured. At 24, in addition to his nascent reputation, here he is with new stripes on his shoulders. Suddenly, the question ricochets on the oval planet: best player in the world, Antoine Dupont?
The mark of the very large
“I always struggle with this notion in a team sport like rugby, but it is obvious that he is one of those that I call special players, who assert themselves in excellence., comments the former international Olivier Magne, who knew the Gersois well when he was in charge in 2015-2016 of the forwards of the France team under 20, where the young Antoine was pointing. He understood that where he could be the best, it is by being himself: an attacking player, who puts speed in the game by relying on his exceptional physical qualities. “
Qualities that Pierre Villepreux also judges “Huge”. But the former coach of the Blues of the 1990s prefers to highlight “Formidable tactical intelligence” of the man: “He manages to read the game better and faster than the others. This understanding is the hallmark of very great players, like Zinédine Zidane or Michel Platini in football. “ This vision combined with rapid decision-making allows him “To get out of the traps”, retains the former Toulouse international Émile Ntamack: ” When he is in the trap, his evasive qualities, his hooks, his strength to tear himself away from tackles are remarkable. “
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Since his first in the blue jersey (in March 2017 against Italy), Antoine Dupont has continued to progress, erasing his small weaknesses and expanding his palette. “His kicking game in particular has really improved, in length and power, and with both feet”, continues Émile Ntamack. His defensive showdown is also “Incredible for a template like his, emphasizes Olivier Magne. Because we must not trust his good-natured air: on the pitch, he’s not a nice guy. He shows a lot of aggression, in a good sense, and those who play in front of him know it well. “ Summary of Pierre Villepreux: “ Good scrum backs, France and other countries are not lacking, but today it is the most complete. “
A captaincy in addition
So what remains to be gained from this devil of a player who, after a serious injury in 2018, did not finally take the keys to the France team until quite recently, in the 2019 six-nation tournament (32 selections and 10 tries)? “His room for improvement undoubtedly lies in his choice of game launch, but this is also what the whole collective must work on: playing fairer”, assures Olivier Magne. “It won’t be easy, because obviously Antoine Dupont will be more and more watched and put under pressure. The defenses will focus on him ”, warns Émile Ntamack. The ransom of glory, which does not worry Pierre Villepreux: “All the teams will certainly put in place anti-Dupont plans. But it should mobilize players and open spaces. “
The former strategist, on the other hand, is more skeptical about the new responsibility offered to Antoine Dupont. “A captain, today, he must be everywhere. At the heart of the fight on the ground, but also on the front of communication, representation, and it is a burden. “ Apparently, number 9 is hardly moved by it. He is used to barking to motivate his forwards and to lead his world. And he seems quite at ease in the media which already asks for him a lot. “If the staff chose me to take the post of captain, it is for my way of being and the man that I am, so I won’t have to change the way I operate”, he commented recently. Serene.