Antoine Dupont is running out of space in his trophy cabinet but there is one prize that has so far eluded him.
After leading France to a first grand slam in 12 years, Dupont was named Six Nations player of the championship for the second time, to add to the world player of the year award he picked up last year.
But the biggest individual accolade available for any French player right now is defence coach Shaun Edwards’s prize for the top defender in a match.
In the biggest games, the reward is a bottle of Dom Perignon, and after racking up 15 tackles in the 25-13 win over England – equalling the record for a French scrum half held by his coach Fabien Galthie 20 years ago – Dupont is hoping that he will have done enough to get the nod.
He said: “We’ve not had our debrief yet so I’ve not been able to get it, but I hope that at our next meet-up, I will. He’s not wanted to give me the award for best defender so far since he’s been with us!”
Edwards now has four grand slams to his name as a coach, having previously won three with Wales, and his impact on this French team has been evident.
Despite largely winning the kicking battle at the Stade de France, England managed just one try and had very few chances as they struggled to break down their hosts.
And in a country where dazzling with ball in hand was always prioritised over work off the ball, Dupont is clearly enjoying his work with Edwards.
He explained: “Shaun is precise on what he wants and knows exactly what he wants on the pitch. With his experience and his record, everyone listens.
“You could see the very start that he gave the scrum half a relatively free role, and they would get a lot of interceptions. That is what I used to do a lot but now he has changed his view on it, and I defend a bit wider out, maybe in the style of a centre which gives us an extra three-quarter in the defensive line.”
Still only 25, Dupont has taken over the French captaincy from the injured Charles Ollivon and led France to eight successive victories including putting 40 points on the All Blacks and now a grand slam.
They are now favourites with the bookies to lift the World Cup on home soil next year and the scary part for everyone else is that Dupont believes they still have room to grow after successive runners-up finishes in the Six Nations prior to this year’s win.
Dupont, who also revealed he has been taking English lessons to improve his relationship with referees, said: “I think we have gained in maturity and experience. It’s almost the same team as two years ago so we have learned a lot over the last two campaigns.
“On the whole, we were, and still are a young team that is building. Going from there, you learn every day and some of those games in the Six Nations, we might not have won in previous years or not in the same way.”
And as for the reports that the Six Nations trophy spent some of Saturday night in the River Seine during some over-exuberant post-slam celebrations, Dupont pleaded ignorance.
He said: “I read that story in the media, but I wasn’t aware of it. I was the one who brought the trophy home from the night out around 6.30am and it was in a good state. Whether it had a little bath beforehand, I don’t know.”
Antoine Dupont was crowned the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship after leading France to the Grand Slam
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