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'I couldn't sleep': Antoine Dupont felt 'injustice' with Kiwi ref Ben O'Keeffe

By Ben Smith
Antoine Dupont of France interacts with Referee Ben O’Keeffe during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on October 15, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

France’s star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont has revealed that he felt so much injustice during the World Cup quarter-final against South Africa that he had to rewatch the game the day afterward.

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The quarter-final result for France was by the exact same margin in 2019, a 20-19 loss to Wales, but the feeling this time was very different.

During the game there were displays of frustration from Dupont and other French players as they tried to adapt to O’Keeffe’s style.

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Dupont said in an interview with legendary footballer Thierry Henry for Bros. Stories that he “needed” to rewatch the game.

“In 2019, we were eliminated by one point, the same, while we were leading by 12 or 13 points with a quarter of an hour to go, but I never watched the match again,” he told Henry.

“That one, I needed it. I couldn’t sleep, so I watched the match the next day.

“Because you always have an impression on the pitch, and sometimes, rewatching the match it’s different.

“It was to see if this feeling of injustice was real or not.”

The scrumhalf was openly critical in his post-match comments in the aftermath of the loss saying he didn’t think that the “refereeing was up to the challenge.”

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Following the criticism O’Keeffe brushed off the comments as part of the emotional toll.

“It’s obviously a very emotional time,” O’Keeffe told NewsHub at the time. “I just try to respect that and give them space.”

A World Rugby review into the performance highlighted five major errors with O’Keeffe’s decisions, most of which went South Africa’s way that were material to scoring events during the game.

France benefitted from two major infringements that weren’t picked up and allowed to play on.

Dupont said whilst he will likely get another chance to hoist the William Webb Ellis trophy, he will hold regret over the “nightmare”.

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“I will have the opportunity to win it [the World Cup] perhaps, but we regret the match,” he told Henry.

“You replay the movie in your head and the worse it goes, the worse it ends up going.

“So all you want to do is sleep and then wake up hoping that it’s just a nightmare. Unfortunately, you have to come to accept it and move on.”

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