It will be a massive blow for French fans at the Six Nations, as their star skipper and scrumhalf Antonie Dupont will play for the French National Sevens team ahead of the Paris Olympics.
This would mean he will miss the 2024 Six Nations, depriving all with rugby Six Nations tickets a chance to watch the maestro in action.
National Duty for French Skipper
It is reported that France’s national captain will miss the Six Nations to prep for the Paris Olympic Games and is set to feature in the World Rugby SVNS series. Considering Dupont’s excellence in the fifteens game and skill set, he makes a perfect addition to the sevens side if he blends in well.
But his selection to the France national sevens team will entirely depend on how he performs in the upcoming HSBC SVNS circuit. Based on this performance, Jean-Marc Lhermet, vice president of France Rugby, adds that he might eventually make it to the squad for the Olympics.
Tough Year for Dupont
While the French fans who have already made plans with rugby Six Nations tickets might be disappointed by Dupont’s miss in the Six Nations, they also understand that he’s trying his luck to make the team for the Olympics.
In January, Dupont will start training with the national sevens outfit to adapt to the sevens format. He hopes to contribute to the French team when they host the Olympics.
Lhermet mentioned the initial phase of discussions and preparation with the sevens team without explicitly stating that Dupont will also not be available for Toulouse in 2024.
This might be a significant blow for Toulouse as Dupont is a crucial player in the club, and there are discussions underway with Toulouse on how they can progress.
Currently, Toulouse faces a crucial uphill task in the domestic structure, with clashes against Ulster and Bath in the Champions Cup in January. The side will then go on to face Racing in the Top 14.
Lhermet emphasized the framework’s flexibility between the sevens team and Toulouse, which includes financial regulations established by the league, Toulouse, and the FFR.
This also leaves Fabian Galthie with a formidable challenge: He has to select a new scrum half and a new captain for the championship. France will miss their intelligent captain on the field, and it will be challenging for him to find a like-to-like replacement right now.
Dupont has shown keen interest in the Olympics from earlier days, highlighting his motivation and enthusiasm for the event.
France’s highest finish in the Olympic rugby sevens was 7th, and the team has yet to have any good fortune.
With France hosting the Olympics, it is a perfect stage for Dupont and the French national sevens to step up to the occasion and win a medal. Winning an Olympic medal is one of the greatest achievements for any athlete.
Fiji is a two-time gold medal winner in the Olympics, while Australia and New Zealand have strong lineups this season.
Injury Issues for England
Ahead of the Six Nations, England has an uphill task in finding the right squad, with Ben Earl expected to miss the tournament after an injury during the Saracens’ recent clash against Harlequins. The player was forced to withdraw from the Premiership game with the injury during the warm-up.
For the fans with Rugby Six Nations tickets from England, this bad news is that Saracens’ director, rugby Mark McCall, indicated that his injury is severe and that he will be out for a considerable time.
Saracens’ bos McCall expressed concerns stating that Ben hurt his knee and it is too early for them (Saracens’) to assess the severity of the injury and added that “we’ve lost him probably for a while.”
The injury woes for England extend beyond Earl, with Elliot Daly and Alex Lozowski also facing disruptions.
McCall praised the players’ resilience, commending individuals like Olly Hartley and Tom Parton for their notable displays in unfamiliar positions during the 38-10 victory against Harlequins.
Saracens might have the adequate bench strength to progress, as they’ve already secured their play-off spots, but for England, it will be a tester to see the next best alternatives before the squad gets finalized.
Uini Atonio comes back from Retirement
France’s prop Uini Atonio, who announced his retirement after the Rugby World Cup, has decided to reverse his decision ahead of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.
His initial announcement that he was retiring seemed definitive, but reports indicate that he has reversed his decision after talking with head coach Fabian Galthie.
With 57 caps for France, he will once again wear the France jersey, as he will add depth to the French front row.
Atonio became vital to France’s preparations for the 2022 Rugby World Cup. He was instrumental in the team’s 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam victory and started all five games.
Despite starting four games in the recent World Cup, including the quarter-final loss, Atonio faced competition for his role from Dorian Aldegheri and Sipili Falatea. Yet, he remains a fan favorite in the French lineup.
Atonoo recently made a comeback as a replacement for La Rochelle in the Top 14 game against Bayonne, and it impressed coach Galthie to make the call to get him back. Despite his age, his work rate has shown no signs of slowing, and he delivered a match-winning performance that day.
For the French fans looking for rugby Six Nations tickets, it will be a complete set of new venues for the home games. With the 2024 France Olympics, the Stade de France is undergoing a facelift.
Instead of the usual venues, the Six Nations action will shift to Lille and Marseille, both rugby frenzy cities.
France will kick off their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Marseille, and it will feel like the Rugby World Cup final that the entire world was rooting for. Ireland is the defending champion of the Six Nations, and after the tough defeat to the All Blacks, they wouldn’t want to let go of their title that easily.
Last time around, France finished second, only losing out to Ireland.
Their schedule includes away fixtures against Scotland and Wales and a home game against Italy in Lille, concluding with a clash against England in Lyon, which will be a challenging set of games for France.
Life will be tough, especially in the absence of their regular skipper, known to play from the front, commanding his team at scrum-half.
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