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06th May 2023

Johnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell offer fascinating opinions of Antoine Dupont

Patrick McCarry

Antoine Dupont

“Man, that guy is freakish.”

A couple of years back, during an appearance on House of Rugby, Leinster and Ireland winger James Lowe reflected on what it was like to prepare for a game against an Antoine Dupont side.

“When we played France in the Six Nations [finale, in 2020]… it was wild how far back we we had to go to actually find clips of Dupont doing things wrong. When he was a Castres – and this was when he was 19 and was just coming back from an ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] – I think that was the last time we found him making mistakes.

“Man, that guy is freakish. He’s so quick around the park and so physical. Makes all the right decisions and puts people into holes. I mean, he’s a 9 that’s going to be around for quite a while and, unfortunately, someone who’ll be in my nightmares as well!”

Dupont has just one World Rugby Player of the Year accolade to his name but, in fairness, he had the 2020 prize in the bag, only for Covid-19 to tilt that year’s Test schedule on its’ head. He claimed the award in 2021 and was edged out for it, by Josh van der Flier, in 2022.

During our visit to the International Rugby Experience down in Limerick, during the week, we sought to settle the ‘Best player right now’ question with some legends of the game.

Antoine DupontJohnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell are big fans of Antoine Dupont.

Sexton and O’Connell on Antoine Dupont

We asked seven rugby legends to name the best player in the world right now. Johnny Sexton, Paul O’Connell, Joy Neville, Matt Dawson, Sean Fitzpatrik and Bryan Habana all went for Antoine Dupont. England & Lions legend Jeremy Guscott opted for Josh van der Flier.

Having played in an era with genuine all-time legends like Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll, it was interesting to hear Paul O’Connell speak with so little doubts about the Toulouse ands France scrum-half.

“It’s a tricky enough question because I think the best player in the world at the moment is Antoine Dupont. And I think he’s going to be the best rugby player of all time.

“He’s certainly the best rugby player I’ve ever seen. So, even though he’s relatively early in his career, I’ve got to go for Antoine Dupont.”

As a former World Rugby Player of the Year [2018] and a nominee last year, the opinion of Johnny Sexton stands for a lot.

The Ireland captain did get in a mention for a provincial, and international, teammate before raving about Dupont.

“Well, Josh [van der Flier] is world player of the year,” said Sexton. “But I think Dupont. He could go on and be the best player of all time. He is that good.”

For both men to say Antoine Dupont is the best player in the world right now is no huge shock. For both to suggest he has the potential, or already is, the best of all time certainly surprised us.

Dupont has spoken highly about Sexton in the past, too. A couple of years back, he spoke of how closely he and his France teammates would be at watching Irish team announcements closely, to see if they have to get ready to face Sexton.

“Sexton has been a doubt for games quite a few times [recently],” he said, “but he ends up being on the team sheet to crucify us when he can.”

Game respects game. Worth remembering, too, that Dupont is only 26 and has a bevvy of big rugby moments ahead of him.

*There is more from Johnny Sexton in the latest House of Rugby episode (from 22:45) below.


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