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New Zealand warned of 'serious mistake' when playing Dupont

By Ian Cameron
New Zealand's flanker Sam Cane (C) and New Zealand's players take part in a training session in Lyon, central-eastern France, on September 6, 2023, ahead of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

New Zealand have been warned of a serious strategic pitfall in playing France and their iconic scrumhalf and captain, Antoine Dupont, at the Stade de France tonight in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup.


Dupont, who is widely regarded as the best rugby player on the planet, is no doubt a generational talent but a former France Test star has warned against the folly of targetting the Toulouse man at the cost of forgetting about the rest of the star-studded French side.

Xavier Garbajosa – speaking on French television – says that while the All Blacks will no doubt target the 26-year-old, that can’t be the totality of their game plan.

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“When we see the quality of the player, it is better (to make an anti-Dupont plan). At a given moment, when we play an opposing team, we try, beyond making a plan, to counter the forces present,” said the current Lyon head coach.


“In fact, the objective of the Blacks will surely be to leave as little space as possible to Antoine Dupont, to mark him in the pants, to try to suffocate him, so that he cannot find the connection with Matthieu Jalibert, that he can’t find any space around it.

“Now, Antoine is the captain of the France team and has his role as number nine, but there are others around him. Focusing solely on Antoine Dupont would be a serious mistake, as the French team has a plethora of qualities in all its lines.”

Whatever about the threat that France poses, statistics certainly favour New Zealand. France have lost 14 of their last 15 Tests against the men in black, although Les Bleus’s solitary victory in that run came in the most recent meeting between the two nations in their 40-25 clash in November 2021.


Overall, France have won 13 of their 62 Tests against the All Blacks, with no other European side having beaten New Zealand on more than eight occasions.

However, arguably in France’s favour, the opening game of the men’s Rugby World Cup has been won by a host nation in seven of the previous nine tournaments.

The only exceptions were England’s defeat to New Zealand in 1991 and France’s opening-round loss to Argentina in 2007.



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