From XV to sevens, there is only one step for Les Bleus captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont, a leading figure in French rugby. From January, the best rugby player in the world 2022 will join the group preparing for the rugby event at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The integration of Dupont (27 years, 52 caps) will be formalized Monday, on the sidelines of an event at D-250 organized by the French Rugby Federation (FFR) at the headquarters of France Télévisions, broadcaster of the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Paris-2024, said the FFR to AFP, confirming information from L'Équipe.

Fabien Galthié's XV de France will therefore have to do without his master to play for the 2024 Six Nations Tournament, which begins on February 2 in Marseille, ahead of Ireland.

His usual understudy Maxime Lucu (Bordeaux-Bègles), who replaced him during the 2023 World Cup when he was recovering from his maxillozygomatic fracture suffered against Namibia, should play a role in the number 9 position, as should Baptiste Couilloud (Lyon). Unless Racingman Nolann Le Garrec or Clermont-Ferrand's Baptiste Jauneau do well.

"Digestion has started and we need to get rid of it"

In the meantime, a few weeks after the elimination in the quarter-finals of the 2023 World Cup against South Africa (29-28), Dupont returned to the pitch with Toulouse, participating in the victory of the Rouge et Noir at the expense of Perpignan (43-34) in the Top 14.

France captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont during the World Cup quarter-final elimination at Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, France, on October 15, 2023. © Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP (archives)

"We'll always have it in the way. The digestion has started and we have to evacuate it," explained the head of French rugby this weekend on Canal+ about the disappointment against the Springboks.

All the stakeholders (club, player, federation, XV and sevens teams) have agreed on this "transfer" likely to make the dream of the French rugby superstar to try his luck at the Olympics a reality. For Paris-2024, this is a great opportunity to add a big name to the line-up of stars who will be chasing medals from July 26 to August 11.

But the interested party will first have to convince the general manager of the France rugby sevens team, Christophe Reigt, and the coach Jérôme Daret. Dupont is not guaranteed to play in the Olympics, where the rugby sevens event appeared in 2016, Fiji having won the first two editions in Rio and Tokyo in 2021.

Two test steps

Before thinking about hanging an Olympic medal around his neck, the Toulouse-born athlete will take part in the world circuit, starting with the two stages in Vancouver (23-25 February) and Los Angeles (2-3 March), with Les Bleus, currently fourth in the world rankings.

France and New Zealand battle it out during a lineout during the match between their countries at the Sevens Rugby (rugby sevens) tournament in Hong Kong on April 2, 2023. © Isaac Lawrence, AFP (archives)

He will also have to adapt to the sevens game, where the spaces are larger and the races are more numerous and more intense. The format of the matches (14 minutes) as well as its repositioning will also require some time to adjust for the best player in the world in 2021. Given the physical and tactical profile of "Toto", however, this adaptation does not seem insurmountable.

Another parameter to take into account will be that of fatigue, since Dupont will go back and forth between Stade Toulousain and France VII, as he has been doing for years with the XV of France.

As such, he should be available to his club for the finals, if the Rouge et Noir champions of France in title participate in the Top 14 (final on June 28 in Marseille) as in the Champions Cup (final on May 25 in London).

"What could be better than the club and new objectives to get back on track?" he asked again this weekend after his return with Toulouse.

Probably nothing more than titles and a unique Olympic adventure, the better to cure the still perennial blue ailments.

With AFP

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