Antoine Dupont reflected on the thrilling journey taken by the French team after receiving the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year award, in association with Mastercard.
As scrum-half and latterly captain, Dupont has been at the heart of the French revival in 2021 that culminated in the final test of the Autumn Nations Series with an historic 40-25 victory over New Zealand.
Les Bleus’ first win over the All Blacks since 2009 came at the end of a year when Dupont lit up the Six Nations with his attacking play while also helping club side Toulouse to the Heineken Champions Cup and French Top 14 double.
“I think I've been lucky enough to play in teams that have had good results, whether it is with Toulouse with whom we had an extraordinary season last year with the double, and with the French team, even if I couldn't make the summer tour (to Australia),” he said.
"We had a good Six Nations tournament, where we finished second again, and this tour in November and the victory against the All Blacks.
“That win will stay with me for a long time because it was the All Blacks, because the Stade de France was sold out, and because we had our families and friends in the stands and we had not been able to see them at the Stade de France for a long time.
“It’s all positive, and in the middle of it, I was able to have a lot of fun.”
Dupont was certainly fun to watch with his brilliant runs, audacious offloads and appetite for the try line.
The 25-year-old got the public vote by a landslide majority and becomes only the third Frenchman to win the award after his head coach Fabien Galthié (2002) and Dusautoir a decade ago.
Joining a list of legends
Dupont admitted that seeing his name next to “legends” of the sport was hard to comprehend.
“I am very happy and proud to have been elected Player of the Year 2021, it is quite hard to take it in,” he said.
“I have lots of feelings and emotions mixed together.
“We think about all the steps we've taken, how we started when we were four or five years old in the field to get to this point.
“Even if it is not an end in itself, it is still a great reward.”
With France in good shape to end their 11-year wait for a Six Nations title and serious contenders for a home Rugby World Cup in 2023, Dupont hopes there is plenty more to celebrate in the near future.
“I think the best memories we have are the victories when we win together as a team. That's why we play this sport, and all team sports,” he pointed out.
“For me, my titles with the Stade Toulousain, whether it is as French champion or European champions, are incredible emotions, and I look forward to experiencing the same emotions with the French team soon.”