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Why 'it was scary' for Antoine Dupont to play sevens again after 10 years

By Finn Morton
Antoine Dupont #25 of France warms up before their match against Australia during day two of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series - Vancouver at BC Place on February 24, 2024 in Vancouver, British Columbia. France won 31-5. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

SVNS Series debutant Antoine Dupont has explained why “it was scary” to make the switch from 15s to sevens in a bid to be part of France’s squad for the upcoming Paris Olympics in July.

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Dupont is widely considered to be one of the top rugby players on the planet, with some going as far as to suggest that the Frenchman is the best there is.

But after it was revealed in November that the former World Rugby 15s Player of the Year would switch to rugby’s other format, Dupont described the move as a “little bit scary.”

Video Spacer

France 7s captain Paulin Riva on Antoine Dupont joining the 7s squad

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France 7s captain Paulin Riva on Antoine Dupont joining the 7s squad

In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live in December, Dupont said: “I will have a very busy year, but I love that and I am excited. It’s very exciting but a little bit scary.”

But Dupont, who captained France at last year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil, hasn’t exactly looked out of place after debuting on the SVNS Series on Day One in Vancouver.

Wearing the No. 25 jersey, Dupont came off the pine during France’s 24-12 win over the United States and again started on the bench later on Friday against Samoa.

Dupont took another step forward with a try-scoring start against Australia on Saturday. But the 27-year-old insists he still has plenty to “learn” about the fast-paced world of sevens.

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“You just have to watch the guys on the pitch to understand why it was scary,” Dupont told RugbyPass on Day Two at SVNS Vancouver.

“There are very fast guys and they’ve known this game for a very long time. I’m new on the Series so I have to learn.

“I have to do my best from the first game until the last.”

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Dupont wouldn’t have played anything more than eight minutes on the opening day at SVNS Vancouver, but the Frenchmen showed enough to pique the interest of fans worldwide.

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With a reputation for attacking flair and rugby genius, it was only a matter of time until he had his moment. That chance came during a big win over Australia in pool play.

Dupont started ahead of Series regular Stephen Parez-Edo Martin and made the most of the opportunity by scoring his first try on the SVNS Series.

From a scrum, Dupont gathered the ball before dancing around defender Matt Gonzalez, and the SVNS recruit had the pace to burn as the playmaker ran in untouched for the score.

“All the action on the field makes me more confident,” Dupont said.

“I have to spend time on the field, spend time with the guys to know them better.

“I have to learn every minute when I am on the field.”

There have been a lot of genuinely gifted rugby players who have graced the sevens field. New Zealanders Sonny Bill Williams and Ardie Savea, Australia’s Quade Cooper and South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe and Bryan Habana are among a short list of names.

But Dupont is the latest to make the headline-grabbing switch – at least for now with former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper committing to Australia’s sevens program before the Games.

As Dupont revealed to RugbyPass, it’s his first time playing rugby’s shorter format in a decade.

“I played a lot when I was 16, 17 years old,” Dupont explained.

“After I became pro it was more difficult to play sevens so I just watched the game on TV and I watched a lot of players who are here now.

“It’s a pleasure to play against them.”

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Shaylen 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 9 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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