France skipper Antoine Dupont will miss the 2024 Guinness Six Nations in order to prepare to represent his country at the Olympic Games next July. The scrum-half battled a mid-tournament cheekbone fracture to captain Les Bleus in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to South Africa last month.
It has since emerged that instead of rejoining the Fabien Galthie Test-level set-up ahead of a Six Nations that will begin with a fixture in Marseille in February against Ireland, Dupont will instead play for the French men’s sevens team on the revamped HSBC SVNS circuit ahead of the Olympics.
A newswire report read: “France captain Antoine Dupont will sit out this season’s Six Nations to prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris less than a year after the disappointment of an early World Cup exit, the French rugby federation (FFR) told AFP on Wednesday.
“Dupont, 27, will miss the competition held between February 2-March 16 next year in order to participate in legs of the World Rugby seven-a-side circuit, now known as SVNS. His club Toulouse, the FFR and Dupont are set to hold a press conference on Monday, 250 days from the start of the Games, when they are expected to announce Dupont’s intentions.
Two more places secured for #Paris2024! ??
— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) November 12, 2023
“Dupont will join France’s sevens squad in January before SVNS events in Vancouver, Canada, on February 23-24 and Los Angeles on March 2-3. Scrum-half Dupont’s most recent 15-a-side appearance for France was last month’s agonising World Cup quarter-final defeat to eventual winners South Africa at the Stade de France.
“The stadium in northern Paris will also host next July’s sevens competitions, for men and women, in the Games. As far back as last December, Dupont opened the door to playing in the event, which first featured in the Olympics in 2016.
“It’s highly motivating,” Dupont told RTL at the time. “It’s incredible when you see the enthusiasm it can create. There is a desire from my side to put things in place for me to participate. It will be a discussion between the different coaching staffs,” he added.
The AFP report continued: “A host of other leading 15-a-side players have featured at past Olympic Games including South Africa winger 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 France football counterpart, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe, is also keen to take part in the Games on home soil.
“The absence of Dupont in the Six Nations will force France head coach Fabien Galthie to name a new captain and starting scrum-half for the Six Nations, which they start against Ireland on February 2.”