“Antoine Dupont took the best of the best scrum backs”

The former number 9 of RC Toulon and the XV of France (66 years old, 27 selections between 1978 and 1986) looks back on the leading performances of the Toulouse phenomenon.

Le Figaro. – What is your view on Antoine Dupont’s performances?
Jérôme Gallion. – He is a player who quickly matured. He has an impressive technical background at his age. He has no gap, he has no flaw. He has a full set. He has the discernment, the analysis of play and the defense on the man of a Pierre Berbizier. He has this Jacques Fouroux way of ordering. This kind of natural authority. Then he has the play activity of a Gareth Edwards (Welsh rugby legend, Editor’s note).

SEE ALSO – Rugby: Frenchman Antoine Dupont voted best world player of the year

Because of his explosiveness and his way of speeding up the game, they say he gets closer to you …
The one who has a good speed and a good running speed, he will be sucked in by the spaces that can be created around the regroupings. We can see that it is there, where there are forwards, that, on the first steps, Antoine takes the advantage. Afterwards, when there are several playing times and the team still has not crossed the advantage line, with a few taps, he can also unlock the situation. It creates weaknesses in the opposing defense. Often, when it crosses, there is no second curtain, and it goes until the test. He interests me a lot because he has the qualities of many former players. He also reminds me of Max Barrau (15 selections between 1971 and 1974). He also has that passing speed worthy of Aaron Smith (All Black 2015 world champion, 102 caps), he knows when to eject the ball. As quickly as possible, but as he is naughty, the opponents must wait a bit or he may never see him again if he gets the wrong way. He also lifts his head very well like Richard Astre. All of this he is doing at top speed. The game is faster, he got used to it. Thirty years ago, we didn’t play at the same speed. Antoine has this discernment, this authority of many former scrum backs of the XV of France. He took the tremendous qualities and abilities of several players. Looks like he’s seen their game and made it into an amalgamation, taking everyone’s good. This is his great strength. He sees the game and very quickly.

“He’s a real competitor and he gives himself the means. Which is not always the case with good players ”

Jerome Gallion

Before getting there, Antoine Dupont had to progress in his kicking game and his managerial side of the game …
He has coaches around him who are extremely lucid and who are not satisfied with his qualities, but who try to give him an even more complete panel. We see that his kick, when he has to kick in touch, is longer than before. He won at least 10 meters. And it is also extremely precise with the foot in the running game. He knew how to increase the range of his qualities. And now that he’s watched closely by defenses, he’s developed his ability to get others to play, whether it’s passing or kicking. His evolution was obligatory and he knew how to anticipate it. Hats off to these coaches, whether in Toulouse or in the France team. They give him additional keys so that he has more possibilities in the field.

The fact that he is now ultra-supervised, can that inhibit him or put additional pressure on him?
Not at all. We can see that we have already explained all that to him. It was there that he developed this ability to make others play. He does it very well. As soon as he can pass the ball, he does. And when he gets forgotten a little, he can bounce back even better afterwards. When the bodies opposite are a little tired, he can put them on four supports. At the start of the match, it’s more difficult, there he has to play. He understood it because he is smart. We can see him, he is passionate about what he does, he does not have a big head. He still wants to progress. He is a real competitor and he gives himself the means. Which is not always the case with good players.

Philippe Dintrans and Jérôme Gallion during a training session of the XV de France in Clairefontaine in March 1984. Philippe Wojazer / AFP

“Antoine plays fair, so fair”

Jerome Gallion

Do you remember such a dominant scrum half?
It’s rare, especially now. The game has become extremely fast, but Antoine has very positive reflexes. While sometimes it can be jarring, he isn’t at all. He maneuvers perfectly and it’s very pleasant to watch. He plays fair, so fair. In Toulouse, he is certainly surrounded by teammates of very high quality but he remains in his place, he does not do too much. The problem is when some players are above the rest and they tend to overdo it, because they are on an average team. Him no. We wonder if he observed the best scrum backs or if he did that naturally … It would be even more beautiful! (Laughs)

How do you judge the evolution of the scrum half position?
It’s a very difficult job. I find that Antoine is doing wonderfully with all the constraints of modern play. We see that when his team is in trouble, he knows he has to roll up his sleeves and he tackles, he tackles. If he has to tackle for a quarter of an hour, he does. He always makes himself useful. In his placement, in his activity. He does not come off in defense. When it needs to be effective, it is. I really like this type of player. He doesn’t have a big head. After, concerning the captaincy (of the France team), I felt he was a little embarrassed at first because that’s a lot. I think Charles Ollivon is very good in this role. The captaincy must not interfere with Antoine in his own game. He has such a flamboyant game that it would be a shame to put it out.

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