the blue hinge no longer squeaks

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, during training in Marcoussis (Essonne), October 28, 2020.

Mr. ” Yes, but “ is getting everyone to agree. Nicknamed by his club trainer, Ugo Mola, for his propensity “Wanting to understand everything all the time”, Antoine Dupont, 23 years old, multiplies the performances with the XV of France. Associated for the sixth time in a row with Romain Ntamack, 21, in the blue jersey, Saturday October 31 at the Stade de France against Ireland, at the conclusion of the Six Nations Tournament, the scrum-half of the Blues embodies the newfound stability to a central axis, the hinge.

At the end of the preparation match, won against Wales last week (38-21), Fabien Galthié did not spare his praise. “The hinge was good overall, in the conduct of the game, underlined the coach of the Blues, cshe carries the team. ” With tumbles, overflowing with activity and multiplying the good choices – two tries for Dupont, 100% at the foot for Ntamack -, the Toulouse accomplices overthrew the Welsh and a badly embarked meeting. In full confidence, as since their takeover of the game of the Blues.

For a long time, the XV of France groped to find the pair that would do the trick. Scrum half and opening half form, in rugby, the central axis responsible for stimulating and regulating the game. If Jacques Brunel, predecessor of Fabien Galthié on the French bench, has the first partner Dupont and Ntamack as new and ten of the Blues, the former coach had previously exhausted six unsuccessful associations. Difficult to move forward in such a fog, in positions of high responsibility where automatisms prevail.

Read also Rugby: XV of France seeks hinge

“In these positions, confidence is a determining asset, observes Yann Delaigue, former opening half of Toulouse and the Blues. That of the coaches, but also that of the partners towards their playmakers. ” And for those who knew Romain Ntamack as a baby – Yann Delaigue played with Emile, Romain’s father – the two kids of the Blues exude this confidence. Because since taking office a year ago, the staff of the Blues version Fabien Galthié relies on continuity: twelve players will have started all the matches of the Tournament, a rarity in the recent history of the XV of France.


The duo’s outburst comes as no surprise. “Romain was programmed for the high level, by his education and his family roots, his trajectory is almost perfect, observes Ugo Mola, who takes them to the Toulouse Stadium. Antoine has a less linear life course, he was built on chess, and has often been labeled as a player playing alone… ”

But these two passionate about their sport – to the point of watching every passing match, on TV or on their smartphone, to gain experience – have in common an early outbreak at the highest level. “They started playing pro when they came of age, they were able to calibrate themselves in the professional squad, and were immediately competitive.remembers Sébastien Piqueronies, manager of youth teams at the French Rugby Federation. Both quickly rose through the ranks, both in club and in selection. ” Sacred champions of France in 2019, they now form one of the best global hinges.

Read our portrait (in 2019): Antoine Dupont, the taste of the land

Since the resumption of the Top 14, the two men also have the opportunity to oil their club association, Ugo Mola having stabilized Ntamack at the opening, after a few forays into the center. “The plan for Romain has always been very clear with him, and we had no doubts about his ability to eventually become the club’s number 10,” exposes the Toulouse coach. But it had to go through stages, we wanted to make him grow in this position. ” If the Toulouse Stadium is a recognized training club, it remains focused on results, and sometimes, Romain Ntamack has suffered from these “Musical chairs”, without being put on the bench.

“It’s important for a hinge to spend time together, we spent it in the club, which was not the case before, underlined Antoine Dupont in a interview with Ntamack on RMC Sport. It’s always good to chain games together. Our understanding was already good, but it is getting better and better. Sometimes we don’t need to talk to each other, we think the same things. “

“We progressed together in the management of matches”

A complementarity simplified by a common playing philosophy, and a certain penchant for the offensive: “We progressed together in the management of matches, so as not to play ‘everywhere’, as we want to do all the time, but to manage situations a little better”, explains Romain Ntamack.

This series of meetings benefits the Blues. “By playing together in a club, they will have benchmarks, positioning, more intuitive communication codes, which will streamline, accelerate and improve the team’s game”, insists Sébastien Piqueronies. “When a nine finds its number ten with its eyes closed, it saves considerable time at a very high level, extends Yann Delaigue. It is fundamental for a hinge. “

The former international opener advocates continuity, a guarantee of success: “Apart from France, these are not positions where there are big turnovers. It is no coincidence that for thirty years most of the major rugby nations have had a typical hinge. ”

Saturday, in a meeting risking to give birth to the winner of the Tournament, the “DupoNtamack” of the France team will rub shoulders with what is best in the world in terms of longevity at the hinge. The Irish Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton erased in 2019 the record of their predecessors, Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer (56 capes side by side). “This is the hinge that counts, in the history of rugby, they have played the most matches together, Romain Ntamack commented on Tuesday. They are the two key players in this selection, the whole Irish game goes through them. “

Read the column: Romain Ntamack, disciple of the Toulouse school

Ultimately, the XV of France version Galthié aspires to such continuity. “There will be a nice duel of hinges, with very different profiles. For us, the goal is to arrive one day, with Romain and Antoine, at this stability ”, confirmed at the end of October the coach of the back lines, Laurent Labit. “The staff of the France team left on a form of stability which could resemble what Ireland, Wales and England did in another time, concludes Ugo Mola, who sees a healthy emulation being created with the competition. Antoine and Romain have the means to become a partner that will count, but they are not alone. “

The talented candidates for the positions of 9 and 10 are scrambling, but the Louis Carbonel, Baptiste Serin and other Barnabé Couillouds could chomp on their brakes for a long time. Because for the first time in more than ten years, the tricolor hinge no longer creaks.


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