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Dupont slams South African inclusion in European Cup

By Ian Cameron
Toulouse's French scrum-half Antoine Dupont (L) walks on the pitch during the French Top14 rugby union match between Stade Toulousain Rugby (Toulouse) and USA Perpignan at the Ernest-Wallon stadium in Toulouse, south-western France on December 3, 2022. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Antoine Dupont has hit out at South African sides being included in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

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South African sides are taking part in the Champions and Challenge Cup for the first time this season and it hasn’t been well received in all quarters.

It is understood that the French league is unconvinced by the presence of the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls, Lions and Cheetahs in European competition with the logistics and safety surrounding away fixtures the primary concern.

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Others believe that the move has undermined the competition and the former World Player of the Year is firmly in that camp.

“For purists, it’s a bit difficult to grasp,” said Dupont. “Our whole generation has known the legendary European Cup.”

“It’s a new competition now. It’s no longer the European Cup.

“We have to approach it like that and try to see the positive by telling ourselves that we will play new teams. But it’s a bit hard to understand”.

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Despite clearly not being a fan of South African inclusion, Dupont is looking forward to take a tilt at the title once more.

“We feel that there is an excitement, a particular flavour,” said Dupont. “Everyone wants to raise their level and the intensity of their game to be able to compete.”

“The last time Toulouse travelled to a full Thomond Park, it didn’t go very well. We shipped 40 points. We know the value that the 16th man can have there and given the history that we have with them in previous European Cups, they will be ready to welcome us.”

Champions Cup Pool A: Castres, Saracens, Bulls, Lyon, Exeter, Edinburgh, Bordeaux-Begles, Harlequins, Leinster, Racing 92, Gloucester, Sharks.

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Pool B: Montpellier, Leicester, Stormers, Clermont Auvergne, London Irish, Ospreys, Toulouse, Northampton, Ulster, La Rochelle, Sale, Munster.

Challenge Cup Pool A: Glasgow, Toulon, Bristol, Zebre Parma, Perpignan, Bath, Connacht, Cardiff, Brive, Newcastle.

Pool B: Scarlets, Pau, Wasps, Dragons RFC, Bayonne, Cheetahs, Lions, Benetton, Stade Francais, Worcester.

additional reporting PA

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