Antoine Dupont, the captain of the French rugby team, has made the decision to sit out of next year's Six Nations tournament in order to focus on preparing for the rugby sevens event at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The French rugby federation (FFR) confirmed this news to AFP on Wednesday, revealing that Dupont will not be participating in the 15-a-side competition, which is scheduled to take place from 2 February to 16 March 2024. Instead, the 27-year-old will be representing his country on the World Rugby sevens circuit, now known as SVNS.
Dupont, along with his club Toulouse and the FFR, will be holding a joint press conference next Monday. This event, taking place 250 days before the Games commence, is expected to officially announce Dupont's absence from the Six Nations and his plans to prepare for the Olympic sevens event, where he hopes to secure a gold medal for France.
The talented scrum-half, who experienced the disappointment of France's Rugby World Cup campaign falling short with a painful defeat in the quarter-finals against South Africa, will join the national sevens squad in January. Dupont will then participate in the SVNS events, which are scheduled to take place in Vancouver, Canada on 23-24 February, and in Los Angeles on 2-3 March.
Dupont's absence from the Six Nations will result in France head coach, Fabien Galthié, having to select a new captain and starting scrum-half for the tournament. The team will commence their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Paris on 2 February, and will also have matches against Italy and England, as well as trips to Cardiff and Murrayfield.
As early as December 2022, Dupont expressed his interest in participating in the Olympic sevens event, which made its debut at the Olympic Games in 2016. "It's an incredibly motivating opportunity," stated Dupont in an interview with RTL. "The enthusiasm it generates is remarkable." He added, "I am willing to make the necessary arrangements in order to take part in the event. It will involve discussions with the various coaching staff members."
The upcoming 2024 men's and women's Olympic sevens tournaments will be held at the legendary Stade de France in July. In the past, several prominent fifteens players have competed in the Olympic Games, notably the South African winger Cheslin Kolbe and the former New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams. Fiji has been the dominant force in men's sevens, winning the gold medals in both 2016 and 2020. The last time rugby sevens was included in the Olympics prior to 2016 was in 1924. Unfortunately, France's men's team failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and suffered a quarter-final loss to Japan in 2016.
In conclusion, Antoine Dupont's decision to skip the Six Nations and focus on preparing for the 2024 Olympic Games showcases his dedication and desire to represent his country on the world stage. As he joins the national sevens squad and competes in the SVNS events, both Dupont and France will be aiming to bring home the gold medal in the Olympic sevens tournament held in their home country.