Dupont’s legacy just keeps on growing ahead of home World Cup

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The individual accolades keep coming for Antoine Dupont but the French skipper now only has eyes for a team prize and lifting the World Cup on home soil.

The individual accolades keep coming for Antoine Dupont but the French skipper now only has eyes for a team prize and lifting the World Cup on home soil.

On Wednesday, Dupont wrote the latest chapter in his already considerable legacy by being named Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship for the third time, equalling the great Brian O’Driscoll in the process.

Still only 26, Dupont’s reputation grows with every performance, his display against England so impressive that even the Twickenham faithful treated him to a standing ovation after he had orchestrated a record home defeat.

While France eventually had to settle for second in the Guinness Six Nations, losing away to Ireland in an epic encounter between the world’s top two sides, they will head into the World Cup at home as one of the leading contenders to lift the trophy.

Les Bleus have lost just once on home soil in this World Cup cycle, and with excitement building ahead of the tournament, Dupont has become the poster boy.

His fame is now stretching beyond rugby and that would only grow exponentially if France were to lift the trophy for the first time, although for the man himself, the impact on the sport would be one of the biggest benefits of a World Cup win.

He said: “I cannot even imagine the scale that it could have (winning the World Cup at home).

“In any case, we are going to try to make our supporters happy and to inspire kids, so that they want to be like us. We want to inspire younger generations to get as many children as possible playing rugby.

“The aim will be to win it. I think, like every team who will be competing, us even more because we are at home, because we’ve never won it and because there are lots of expectations around the France team.

“We know that this French team has brought people together and has created a lot of expectation because people believe in us and want to see us on the top step.

“I think that we are in a good spot, over the last few seasons we have won most of our matches, we’re second in the world so the signs are positive but we know that when you get to the World Cup, you start from zero and the predictions do not necessarily come to pass.

“There will be other teams who will have at least as much chance of winning as us.”

Dupont was crowned Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship after a public vote, beating out Ireland trio Caelan Doris, Hugo Keenan and Mack Hansen, as well as his own teammates Damian Penaud and Thomas Ramos, the competition’s top try-scorer and point-scorer respectively.

He has now won the award in three of the last four seasons and admitted that it was special to have matched O’Driscoll’s record tally.

The 53-10 victory at Twickenham played a big role in his success and there was plenty of emotion when he reflected on the win, France’s first in the Guinness Six Nations at the home of English rugby since 2005.

He added: “We were ready to put in a big performance over there, it had been 18 years since the France team had won there in the Six Nations. So we knew it would be tough.

“We were a little disappointed by our start to the tournament so we really wanted to do well.

“Beyond that willingness, we had a match where the bounces went our way, everything went how we had played, we scored from every chance and were pragmatic which meant that we were able to build a lead quickly.

“We know that when a team is a long way behind on the scoreboard, it is always hard to come back.

“It’s a powerful memory when you realise what we achieved that day.”