Will poster boy Dupont swop World Cup agony for Olympic glory?

rugby03 June 2024 05:58| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Antoine Dupont © Getty Images

Will it be Olympic solace for France’s ‘maestro’ after the gut-wrenching heartache at the Rugby World Cup? At the moment it certainly seems so.

A week after guiding Toulouse to the Investec Champions’ Cup, Antoine Dupont donned a French jersey and helped his side to the inaugural HSBC SVNS Grand Final trophy by defeating Argentina in the final in Madrid.

And while it wasn’t solely down to one player, Dupont has added an attacking advantage to an already slick French team that have shown themselves to be at the top of their game, and in the top four teams in the World Sevens Series this season even without him.

So France’s hopes for an Olympic medal on home soil in July in Paris are high at the moment and other teams have recognised that.

The shift in the power centre in Sevens rugby has been something to behold. Argentina have become the standard bearers of consistency, winning the series and just falling short in the Championship final on Sunday. Ireland, who beat the Blitzboks twice in Madrid, have become a tough side to face for any team and were runners up in the overall series.

New Zealand have an aging team but are still among the best on the circuit while Fiji can produce moments of magic but struggle with consistency in comparison to some of their exciting teams of the past.

But for now its the poster boy of rugby that has all the tongues wagging, even more so after a fend off of a Great Britain player, using his strength to score a try and create yet another highlights reel for social media consumption.

Another player who will be hoping for glory in the Paris Olympics is Irish international Hugh Keenan, who played for his country this weekend in Madrid and has taken a break from fifteens rugby for the opportunity.

But even he can’t help talking about the poster boy of French rugby.

“I’ve obviously been watching him a lot with Toulouse and with the sevens, he’s phenomenal isn’t he? You saw even his try last night and the difference he can make,” Keenan told reporters in Madrid after he faced Dupont in the Champions’ Cup final with Leinster a week back.

“He was obviously brilliant on the weekend for Toulouse against us and we had a quick word after the game, a quick word in the corridor during the week in the hotel, wishing each other well.

“He’s set the standard for players coming into sevens now, and that’s a very, very high standard.”

Keenan has played Sevens before but has recently starred for Leinster in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. Now that he has returned to Sevens action, he is looking forward to helping Ireland try and grab a medal in Paris in whatever way he can.

“I’d been injured since the Six Nations and that threw a bit of a spanner in the works. Prior to that, I was trying to just focus on Leinster and the Champions Cup because that’s where my career is and where I had to fully focus and commit one hundred per cent.

“The opportunity came about pretty late on and because the lads were doing so well this year, I had a few chats with a few coaches, a few of the actual playing squad and everybody seemed keen to get me on board.

“These opportunities don’t come around too often. I had to make a tough decision, but hopefully, it’s one that I won’t regret and I’ll fully commit to now over the next few weeks and see what happens.”

The Sevens tournament at the Paris Olympics will take place on 24 and 25 July.