With less than a week to go before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France, Les Bleus scrum-half and captain Antoine Dupont has highlighted the importance of his team’s tournament opener against New Zealand.
Expectations are rising in France’s squad and amongst their fans and Dupont is determined for his side to be victorious against the three-time world champions.
Crucial tournament opener
“This match is obviously extremely important, to get us started in the competition and to ensure that people follow our team and want to support them throughout the World Cup,” he told AFP.
“You obviously have to win a home opener.”
France have been in excellent form during their Rugby World Cup warm-up matches but New Zealand suffered a 35-7 defeat to South Africa at Twickenham last weekend.
Despite that setback, Dupont is not underestimating the All Blacks and expects a tough challenge.
“They may have lost this match, but they had won 11 in a row just before, so I’m not worried for them,” he said.
“They know this competition, they’ve won it the most times, and they’re always there when it counts, with plenty of quality and experience.”
As the top ranked sides in Pool A, Les Bleus and the All Blacks are expected to advance from a group that also contains Italy, Uruguay and Namibia, but the tournament opener is an early opportunity for the pool favourites to lay down a marker.
Since Fabien Galthie became France’s head coach after the 2019 World Cup, they have developed an exciting side that combines the flair of previous Les Bleus teams with a tighter, more disciplined style.
That approach was rewarded when they won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2022 and a world ranking of number two behind Ireland. France have also beaten all of the southern hemisphere nations over the last three years – including a 40-25 victory over the All Blacks in Paris in November 2021.
Preparations on track
“We’ve never been so well prepared,” said Dupont.
“We have won 80 percent of our matches, the Six Nations in 2022. We have a promising generation of talented players who have gained experience and continuity in the backbone of the team.
“That hasn’t been the case over the last 10 years.
“So all systems are go. What’s more, we’re lucky enough to be hosting the competition, so we’re hoping for public support.
“In spite of that, it’s still sport and the matches have to be played and won.”
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The article Antoine Dupont ‘not worried for New Zealand’ as he targets Rugby World Cup opener appeared first on Planetrugby.com.