Scotland v France: Why world-class scrum-half Antoine Dupont is a huge threat to home hopes

Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy has identified France scrum-half Antoine Dupont as a “world-class” talent and a threat to home hopes of reaching the Autumn Nations Cup final.

Ireland were unable to hold back France scrum-half Antoine Dupont during last month's Six Nations match in Paris.
Ireland were unable to hold back France scrum-half Antoine Dupont during last month's Six Nations match in Paris.

The Scots host the French at BT Murrayfield this afternoon and are looking to extend their winning run to six Test matches. The visitors lost in Edinburgh in March but have put more than 30 points past both Wales and Ireland since rugby resumed and Dupont has been at the heart of it.

Tandy, who has toughened up Gregor Townsend’s side since joining the coaching staff in December, is full of admiration for the Toulouse scrum-half and knows Scotland must be at their best defensively to keep him in check.

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“He’s pretty special isn’t he?” said Tandy. “He is absolutely up there as a world-class nine. He is a danger, he can take people on, he is a great off-loader, he can kick off both feet.

Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

“He sees space really quickly so we know we can’t leave any separation in our defensive line. If you leave even a metre too much, he will take you on and get offloads and then you’ve got the big guys able to sit you down around the gainline. That’s where we’ve got to be really on point around that ruck area.

“If he spots even half a gap, he is generally through it. And if he has got through it, there is an offload coming off the back of it.”

Dupont has lost his regular half-back partner Romain Ntamack to injury and Matthieu Jalibert will wear the No 10 jersey today. The Scotland coaching team have been quick to talk up the stand-in stand-off but losing a player of Ntamack’s quality in such a key position could prove telling. The Murrayfield match in March is France’s only defeat this year and Ntamack lasted just ten minutes in Edinburgh before being replaced by Jalibert.

The Bordeaux-Begles fly-half has started just once before for France but Tandy rates him highly and says he shares many of the same qualities as Ntamack.

“Jalibert’s an unbelievable player, I’ve seen him play in Europe and he’s an outstanding footballer,” said the Scotland assistant coach.

“With him and Ntamack they’ve got quality 10s and if you start trying to single out one person, that’s when things go awry with our plans for the team. Jalibert’s just like Ntamack, great kicking game, he takes the ball up to the line.”

Tandy’s appointment was part of the shake-up of coaching staff after a disappointing World Cup in Japan where Scotland failed to get out of their group. The former Ospreys head coach has clearly made a difference and says he enjoys working with Townsend whose natural instincts are more inclined to attack.

“I love how he sees the game,” said Tandy. “Sometimes defence coaches want to take over the team but I feel it’s my job to aid the team and support what they want to do and how they want to attack, it’s not just about rigid defence. You have to fit into the personality of the team and coach.

“I think we’ve evolved since the World Cup and it’s just continuing to work alongside him. Both attack and defence have to complement each other.”

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