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Match-winning tries and super sub cameos: How Antoine Dupont’s first sevens outing went

Antoine Dupont - Match-winning tries and super sub cameos: How Antoine Dupont's first sevens outing went
Antoine Dupont (right) wasted no time in finding his feet in Sevens - Getty Images/Don Mackinnon

Not to shock you, but it turns out that Antoine Dupont knows how to play sevens.

The world’s best player made his debut for France at the Vancouver leg of the SVNS series over the weekend, the start of his quest to win Olympic gold with France this summer in Paris.

The strangest thing about seeing Dupont play sevens was him running around wearing number 25 on his back, reportedly chosen as a tribute to his family, and also the sight of him running around in leggings on the artificial surface. Otherwise, he looked right at home.

Dupont’s presence did not mean France walked away with the title. They narrowly lost to New Zealand in the semi-final, with Argentina going on to win the tournament and France finishing third, a Dupont try from a tapped penalty rounding things off to clinch bronze as he broke one tackle, slipped past another and sprinted clear.

The spike in interest around the format since Dupont waved goodbye to the Top 14 a couple of weeks ago was obvious from the huddled media around him at the end of play.

France did their best to ease him in, with Dupont only featuring a couple of times off the bench on the first day. Gradually he picked up more minutes and began to show off the skills you already know about – wide passes, strong carries, ability at the breakdown – and new abilities including throwing into the lineout. Perhaps this is all a masterplan from Fabien Galthie – French fans would love to know that there is one after Sunday’s draw with Italy – to ensure that Les Bleus have a backup line-out thrower moving forward if their two hookers are injured.

His first sevens try against Australia bordered on outrageous; breaking left from a scrum, beating the first man with a step and a fend, throwing a dummy and sprinting free.

Into the knockout stages later on Saturday against Ireland he was also France’s matchwinner, with a blindside dart to put his new side into the semi-finals. We are used to seeing Dupont conjure up moments of magic with far less space, so none of this should really come as a surprise.

Third in Vancouver was France’s best finish in the 2023-24 series so far – Argentina are currently bossing the competition with three tournament wins from four, having also been runners-up in Dubai – and with Dupont in tow France will hope that this weekend’s event in Los Angeles perhaps leads to a first final appearance since last March given that, obviously, Dupont with time is only going to get better at this having already started from a very high base.

Les Bleus meanwhile desperately miss him. It seems that France can still be very competitive without Romain Ntamack, but not without both Ntamack and his Toulouse team-mate Dupont. Their attack in this Six Nations – under a new assistant coach, Patrick Arlettaz – has looked ponderous. To borrow from another sport, against Italy they hogged territory and possession but could not put the ball in the back of the net.

You sensed that under Dupont’s command France might have been up three tries in Lille after the first 20 minutes and Italy could have been on the end of another blowout – regardless of Jonathan Danty’s red card – with the Azzurri instead withstanding France’s early barrage and finishing a penalty off the post away from a famous win.

Dupont’s successful adaptation to sevens might not be much of a soothing balm at this point for French supporters, coaches and team-mates, with France still reeling off another bad performance in a Six Nations which promised so much more. Perhaps only Olympic gold in the summer will help. But for those tuning in to see how Dupont is faring in his new format, it has certainly been fun, and perhaps revived an interest in sevens which might have been dormant for some time.

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