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Was Antoine Dupont the only reason France won the men's LA SVNS?

By RugbyPass
France's Antoine Dupont celebrates in LA (Photo by Patrick T Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly two decades since their 2005 title in Paris under Thierry Janescek, France clinched another major victory at the HSBS SVNS 2024 in Los Angeles, writes Jean-Baptiste Gobelet. After enduring six final losses, France triumphantly secured their second trophy.

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However, attributing France’s victory solely to Antoine Dupont would undermine the collective effort of the French team over numerous years. Jerome Daret’s players showcased an exceptional performance throughout the tournament, with Andy Timo, Jordan Sepho and Antoine Zeghdar all shining brightly in crucial moments.

The stars on Hollywood Boulevard seemed to align perfectly for France at this edition of HSBC SVNS, as unexpected defeats knocked out favourites like Argentina and Fiji in the quarter-finals. This set the stage for an unprecedented all-European last four featuring Spain, Ireland, Great Britain and France.

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Simon Raiwalui on Fiji’s experience at the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Former Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui discusses their journey at the tournament, which ultimately came to an end in the quarter finals.

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Simon Raiwalui on Fiji’s experience at the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Former Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui discusses their journey at the tournament, which ultimately came to an end in the quarter finals.

Defence and offloads: the keys to France’s success
The French team’s victory was constructed upon an impressive defensive strategy, characterised by a dense and formidable seven-man wall that applied significant pressure on opposing counter-rucks. On the offensive front, France showcased their prowess with an exceptional offload game, leading the LA SVNS tournament in offloads.

For several seasons under Daret’s guidance, the French team has prioritised a stand-up style of play over a focus on the breakdown. Alongside Fiji, they stand out as one of the most dynamic teams, averaging fewer than one ruck per try.

With the athletic prowess of their sevens squad, France boasts one of the top teams on the world series, featuring fast and highly physical players ideally suited for this style of rugby.

Adding the best player in the world to an already talented squad undoubtedly enhances its capabilities. Dupont’s influence has been significant in France’s pursuit of a new trophy. The absence of a thermal shock on the North American continent, similar to that experienced in winter in France, has had no adverse effect on the physical condition of the world’s top player.

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Transitioning from rugby union to rugby sevens within a single season is a feat not easily accomplished, even for the stars of world rugby. Numerous attempts have been made, yet many have faltered in this endeavour. Notable examples are Sonny Bill Williams and Bryan Habana.

In contrast, Dupont has made a flawless start to the SVNS series, delivering a string of exceptional performances that have merited him a well-deserved spot in the LA dream team.

Dupont: Mental impact
Ever since the announcement of his participation in the North American legs, Dupont has been the focal point of discussions. His presence on the world series roadshow naturally has a profound impact on opposing teams.

Some players have been visibly affected mentally, resulting in abnormal technical fouls or defensive lapses during the game. Conversely, on the French side, Dupont’s presence has had the opposite effect, galvanising and strengthening their performance.

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The mental aspect holds even greater significance in sevens, especially with knockout matches occurring at each tournament. It appears that the arrival of Dupont has absorbed much of the pressure surrounding the French team.

As a result, we have witnessed French players displaying greater resilience under pressure and, most importantly, exhibiting much more confidence in their decision-making.

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Dupont’s mental influence was particularly evident on day two in LA. The pivotal moment of the tournament occurred during the quarter-final against the USA where France were trailing 6-7 with a player sent off. France maintained possession and effectively managed the clock.

Unlike other teams that struggled when short-handed in the quarter-finals (such as Argentina and Fiji), France remained composed and did not break down. Remarkably, they even controlled possession throughout the second half, denying the USA any opportunities to score.

The commentators on RugbyPass TV encapsulated the situation: whenever Dupont was on the field, France were never considered the underdog. This succinctly highlights the profound mental impact that Dupont has had on the French team, fostering a collective serenity that is uncommon during moments of weakness.

The numbers: 25 ball carries and six offloads
Dupont emerged as the most prominent ball carrier for France during the LA SVNS, consistently posing a threat, especially in the midfield, where he often drew the attention of two defenders.

His dynamic runs disrupted the opposition’s defensive structure, forcing them to adjust their defensive strategies. The intense focus on Dupont sometimes resulted in tight marking, with two or even three players converging on him, creating space for his teammates to exploit, as seen in Sepho’s try against Fiji.

Dupont’s influence continued to grow throughout the second North American tournament, as he played a decisive role in nine out of the 18 tries, including three remarkable solo efforts at crucial junctures. Undoubtedly, the world’s best XV player has successfully made his mark in the sevens arena.

  • Click here to watch all the HSBC LOS ANGELES SVNS highlights on RugbyPass TV
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Comments

10 Comments
B
Bull Shark 101 days ago

It’ll be all hunky dory until after the Quarters at the Olympics.

Du Pont will then switch to rugby league.

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