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The report card on Antoine Dupont after his initial SVNS training sessions

By Ian Cameron
French scrum-half Antoine Dupont (R) listens to France's head coach Jerome Daret during a training session of the French rugby seven team in Marcoussis, south of Paris, on January 3, 2024, as part of the team's preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

France Sevens coach Jerome Daret expressed confidence in star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont’s transition to the SVNS circuit ahead of the Paris Olympics.

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After missing Toulouse’s 29-8 loss to Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle last weekend in the Top 14, the France XVs captain linked up with his new teammates in Marcoussis for a four-day training camp running from January 2 to 5. Despite a challenging start in wet and windy conditions at the French SVNS team’s first training session on Wednesday, Daret remains optimistic about Dupont’s adaptation.

Dupont, pivotal in France’s recent World Cup campaign in the 15-a-side game, is set to miss the Six Nations to vie for a place in the SVNS tournament at the July Games. “I thought he was already very comfortable,” Daret told AFP post-session at the national training centre in Marcoussis. “He’s a player who is laying himself bare. He’s getting out of his comfort zone and he’s keen to fight.”

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Daret has “no worries” about Dupont, 27, integrating into the team’s tactics, despite noting the physical differences between the sevens and traditional rugby formats. “Antoine has all the skills to be able to exist in this game, in terms of speed, but we need to gradually get him to be able to handle this load,” he said.

Dupont’s induction included the squad’s customary welcome ritual – performing burpees to his teammates’ applause. “We’re very happy to welcome Antoine. It’s very positive for the group,” said captain Paulin Riva. Teammate Jefferson Lee Joseph from Agen highlighted Dupont’s openness to learning, despite his limited experience in rugby sevens.

Former sevens player and current France wing Gabin Villiere, while not part of the sevens squad, is confident in Dupont’s ability to adapt. “We’ve already got some pretty obvious physical resources in Rugby Union,” Villiere told AFP. He advises Dupont to focus on his strengths, including one-on-ones and high-intensity sprints.

Before aiming for Olympic glory, Dupont is scheduled to participate in three World SVNS Series legs – Vancouver in February, Los Angeles in March, and Madrid in late May. The Olympic men’s sevens will take place at Stade de France, just months after France’s World Cup elimination by South Africa in the same venue.

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