France scrum-half Antoine Dupont is expected to light up the Stade de France on Saturday night, the 23-year-old emerging in recent years to quickly become a global star of the sport who is now widely recognised as one of the best No9s – if not the best – in the world just now.

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Having torn Wales apart in last weekend’s warm-up, the half-back will earn his 25th cap against Ireland three-and-a-half years after he made his debut in Italy in March 2017.

The Toulouse player has swiftly risen from rookie to leadership status in the France ranks but Midi Olympique have reported how playmaker Dupont was very nearly lost to football at a young age as he had grown bored with the level of grassroots rugby he was playing it. 

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The latest edition of the French rugby bi-weekly newspaper spoke with Dupont’s first coach Jean-Philippe Guerrero, who set-up a rugby school in Castelnau-Magnoac with like-minded parents, including Dupont’s father. 

However, the would-be star eventually grew tired with rugby and would have taken up football but for his club coaches making a crucial decision which accelerated his development and kept him on track for stardom later down the line. 

Guerrero explained: “One day his mother said to me: ‘I don’t know if Antoine will continue rugby.’ He was playing U8s but was bored with players his age, so he wanted to stop this sport and try football where a few friends of his were playing. 

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“The president of the rugby school at the time and the educators who saw Antoine Dupont evolve before their eyes decided to move him up a category despite being just seven-and-a-half years old.

“He was more at his level against kids who were two years older than him. And even there again, the difference in talent and maturity was enormous on the pitch. When he decided to take the ball and go to score, no one could stop him.”

In an effort to place a limit to Dupont’s game-destroying dominance, Guerrero and his colleagues introduced rules in training that they were not used to. “We forced a number of compulsory passes during certain workshops. If we didn’t do that, Antoine crossed the field all alone with each of his ball carries.”

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