New year, same Antoine Dupont.
The 2020 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship picked up where he left off as the 2021 campaign got underway in Rome, putting in a sparkling display against Italy which included a try and four assists as France got up and running with a 50-10 victory.
REPORT: Italy 10-50 France
The scrum-half pulled the strings in a free-flowing French performance and picked up his first Player of the Match award in the competition – one which is unlikely to be his last.
It took less than six minutes for Dupont to set up his first try of the afternoon, feeding Dylan Cretin to crash over under the posts.
Gael Fickou was the next beneficiary of the No.9’s creativity, with the France centre latching on to Dupont’s delicate dink over the Italian backline to dot down.
Dupont’s first-half work was not done. He was on hand to thump a stray Italian pass downfield and having provided support to Gabin Villiere, produced a fantastic offload to hand Arthur Vincent a simple run in for his side’s third try.
Les Bleus led 24-3 at the break and sealed their bonus point in style through Brice Dulin – France’s first try of the match not set up by Dupont.
But the 24-year-old did not stay out the action for long and was on hand to stroll in for the try his performance deserved in the 53rd minute.
There was still time for one more assist, an unselfish pass to set up Teddy Thomas for the first of his two tries, before Dupont was withdrawn on the hour with the victory in the bag.
In all, he made 62 metres from his four carries, broke three tackles and helped his side gain 284 metres through his kicks, while his remarkable four assists matched his tally from the entirety of last season’s competition.
As statements of intent go, this was emphatic from both France and their magician in the No.9 jersey. A thrilling Championship is in store and, on this evidence, Dupont will again be at the heart of it.