'No worries' as Dupont adapts to SVNS
SPOTLIGHT: France sevens coach Jerome Daret revealed he has “no worries” about Antoine Dupont’s ability to convert to the abbreviated game in time for the Olympics held in Paris.
The France scrumhalf took part in a wet and windy first training session with the French SVNS team on Wednesday
Dupont, who led France’s unsuccessful bid for World Cup glory in the 15-a-side version of the game will miss the Six Nations as he attempts to make the cut for the SVNS tournament at the Games in July.
“I thought he was already very comfortable,” said Daret after Wednesday’s first 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.”
Daret said he had “no worries” about Dupont, 27, adapting to his team’s tactics.
“There are differences compared to [SVNS and fifteen] in the physical dimension,” he said.
“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.”
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Dupont’s status within the game – he was World Player of the Year in 2022 – did not spare him the usual rituals handed out to new members of the squad, in this case, a series of burpees performed in front of his applauding teammates.
“We’re very happy to welcome Antoine. It’s very positive for the group,” said captain Paulin Riva.
Other members of the squad also welcomed the arrival of such a talismanic figure although Agen’s Jefferson Lee Joseph admitted that Dupont “doesn’t know much about rugby SVNS so he was very receptive”.
France wing Gabin Villiere, who is not a member of the current sevens squad but played 43 times for them in the past, has no doubt that Dupont will comfortably translate his talents to a new stage.
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“We’ve already got some pretty obvious physical resources in Rugby Union,” he told AFP.
“I think Antoine will have to keep doing what he’s doing, like taking on the one-on-ones, trying to play after contact or finding space.
“The most difficult thing is repeating high-intensity sprints.
“Even in the ruck areas, you have a really technical part which is incredible and which you need to develop.”
Before Dupont gets to dream about Olympic glory, he will take part in three legs of the World SVNS Series, in Vancouver in February, Los Angeles in March and Madrid at the end of May.
The men’s sevens at the Olympics will be held at the Stade de France just months after October’s disappointing result in the 15-a-side code in the same stadium where France were eliminated in the World Cup by South Africa.
A host of other leading 15-a-side players have featured at past Olympic Games including South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe and former New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams, who have both won the World Cup twice.
Fiji have won the two men’s gold medals since seven-a-side rugby was introduced into the Olympics with the longer format of the sport having last featured in 1924.
Dupont’s football counterpart, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe is also keen to take part in the Games on home soil.