How Wales kinda shutdown Antoine Dupont
Les Bleus will complete a clean sweep and secure Six Nations silverware for the first time since 2010 if they beat England in Paris next Saturday and it’s hard to understate the shadow Dupont cast across Fabien Galthie’s side.
The World Player of the Year for 2021 is such a force of nature that defensive coaches are besotted with the idea of limiting his influence on the game, ‘shutting him down’.
Prior to last night’s game, Wales head coach Wayne Pivac made no bones about wanting to do exactly that.
“We don’t tend to single out individual players, but in this case you can’t (help) but do that because he is world-class, isn’t he?”
“He is probably the form player in the world. Even when you are sitting in the opposition coaches’ box, some of the things he does on the field you find yourself just saying ‘well done’.
“He is just great to watch, but hopefully we will be able to contain him, because he is world-class.”
Easier said than done, yet last night in Cardiff, Dupont had – by his remarkable standards at least – a relatively quiet day. True, he was nursing a sore arm care of midweek training session – but all the same, Wales seemed to get to him or contain him to a degree at least.
Do you know Antoine Dupont? https://t.co/Mc6N64HYIt
— Cécile Grès (@cecilegres) March 10, 2022
Rookie Wales scrumhalf Kieran Hardy proved a key figure in keeping France captain relatively quiet during a heavyweight toe-to-toe contest. The youngster gave an overview of how they kicked the breaks on the best player in the world.
“He is a world-class player, and we all knew the threat he posed,” Hardy said after the game. “It was just about taking his time away and trying to close him down as much as we could.
“Any turnover ball, it was about staying alert because he is usually the first person to see an opportunity and make something happen.”
Wales may have lost the match, but they may have provided a road map to limiting the damage the Toulousain regularly inflicts on opposition defences.
It was hardly a poor game for Dupont, as rugby writer Paul Eddison observed.
“Where is the narrative that Dupont had a bad game coming from? Sure, he only had four or five standout moments (the early break, the bump on Navidi and offload that almost led to a Moefana try, some ridiculous defence and a key intercept and scrum turnover).
Where is the narrative that Dupont had a bad game coming from?
Sure, he only had four or five standout moments (the early break, the bump on Navidi and offload that almost led to a Moefana try, some ridiculous defence and a key intercept and scrum turnover). #WALvFRA
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) March 11, 2022
While France march on, it was Wales’ third defeat in this season’s tournament and the first time for 13 years that they failed to score a Six Nations try at home.
But captain Dan Biggar’s three penalties kept them in the fight and, had centre Jonathan Davies collected a scoring pass during the second half, Wales could easily have turned the tables on France, 12 months after Les Bleus destroyed their Grand Slam dream.
“We will dust ourselves off, come in on Monday and roll our sleeves up,” said scrum-half Hardy, who was an early replacement for Tomos Williams after he suffered a head injury.
“We know how good we can be, and I think next week (at home against Italy) is a real test for us to show our attacking strengths, try and score four tries and finish with a dominant performance.
“There is frustration, knowing that we probably did enough to win the game without actually winning it. We probably left a few chances out there.”
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