Antoine Dupont, before France-South Africa: “Tackling together, winning together”

Home » Antoine Dupont, before France-South Africa: “Tackling together, winning together”
Antoine Dupont, before France-South Africa: “Tackling together, winning together”

The players of the XV of France have discovered, or rediscovered for most of them, the Vélodrome de Marseille in a sweetness that would almost make you forget that we are playing an autumn tour. After an hour of training, captain Antoine Dupont, accompanied by manager Raphaël Ibanez, appeared at a press conference to discuss the big meeting that awaits the Blues on Saturday evening against South Africa.

“Is ten months before the World Cup, can we speak of the ultimate test for your team?
There will be others between now and the World Cup, but for sure it’s a very important match, against the world champions. We haven’t been able to play Africa for a few years (since November 2018). In our journey, it is important to confront the best so yes, it is important. Since the World Cup, they have continued to unfold, they have lost few matches with the same frame of players, a lot of experience and the same game plan. They have this common experience. In our construction, it is important to face them. Beating them is even better in view of this World Cup where we could play them again.

Did you feel any differences in the preparation?
We prepare all the matches in the same way, to win them. We stayed serious. But when you have an opponent of this stature, there is more concentration, more application but you don’t revolutionize anything during the week either.

“If the teams adapt to our game, it means that what we do works”

Do you feel the same excitement as a year ago before facing New Zealand (40-25) ?
Yes, it’s comparable because they are the biggest teams in the world and we face them little. There is a lot of excitement, we all want to play this kind of match, to measure ourselves against the best. In the preparation of these weeks, there is always something more.

Is there still a place for pleasure or does fear dominate?
You have to manage to find this pleasure in being there, in experiencing moments like that, in playing matches of this level in stadiums like the Vélodrome. Everything you experience is magnificent, you have to be able to enjoy it. The issue must not take precedence over everything. We all want to do well but it has to flow from the pleasure of playing well, of tackling together, of climbing together, of winning together to find this joy. Otherwise, it takes away meaning from everything we do.

Opponents are adapting more and more to your game. How do you adapt to that?
We do it during the match, as was the case last week when we saw the Australians play a lot on foot. South Africans use it more regularly. If the teams adapt to our game, it means that what we do works. You have to be able to respond to all the possible scenarios during the meeting, that’s what we try to work on during the week. We face different scenarios and different ways of playing the opponent. You have to be ready for anything and know how to adapt directly on the pitch.

“If we do not respond present in the physical commitment, we will not talk about the rest”

What do you think of your vis-à-vis Faf de Klerk?
He is world champion, holding this position for several seasons. He is a player who is more in the rotation today but he remains very experienced, like this South African team, who put a lot of physical commitment into their game and have a very good game in foot. It remains an important player in their system.

There is always a bestial side, frontal facing South Africa…
I was at the Toulouse Stadium with my rugby school in 2009, we all remember the impacts, the tackles… That’s what stands out from this South African team, it’s their leitmotif to put a lot of physical involvement in their game. If we don’t respond in this area, we won’t talk about the rest…

Antoine Dupont next to Grégory Alldritt in training on Friday. (A. Mounic/The Team)

How important will the ground combat be?
This is going to be a very important key. We will have to arrive first in the ruck zones, we know that they are massive and that if they take the place first on the ground, they are very hard to get out. If we want to have this continuity, this speed, it is important to be present on the ground, with very close support and a lot of aggressiveness to counter it. It is one of their strong points to try to slow down our game.

Playing at the Vélodrome, what does it inspire you?
It’s the first time I’m going to play it. It’s a chance to evolve in this mythical stadium, which is magnificent and which, from what we have been told, can make the atmosphere incredible. Let’s hope the match goes in the right direction and that the fans follow us. We also hope that it will bring us luck as it has brought luck to other French teams in the past.

You are going to start for the 21st time at the hinge with Romain Ntamack (record of Parra – Trinh-Duc equaled). What does this represent for you?
It’s an asset for both of us, to get to know each other better and better. We know how to respond to the actions of one and the other. And it’s a plus for the team to have continuity in key positions. It also shows the will of the staff to have continuity. And we had the performance and not too many injuries to enjoy playing together, gaining experience. »

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