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Sexton is 'a role model for me,' says 21-year-old France out-half Ntamack

Meanwhile, Antoine Dupont is a major threat to Andy Farrell’s Ireland.

Ntamack and Sexton start at out-half for their sides tomorrow in Paris.
Ntamack and Sexton start at out-half for their sides tomorrow in Paris.

AMONG THE MANY reasons France fans are excited for the future is the fact that their first-choice halfbacks are just 23 and 21.

Whatever about them maturing ahead of the 2023 World Cup on home soil, Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are already high-quality players at the top level.

Dupont is in the mix when it comes to picking the best scrum-half in the game, while Ntamack has been impressively composed in the number 10 shirt.

The fact that they also play together at Toulouse – where Ntamack sometimes wears the number 12 jersey – is a major positive for France. This duo could still be alongside each other at the 2027 World Cup, and maybe even the 2031 version if they avoid injuries and fight off the next generation of French halfback talent.

For now, the pair of them are focused on tomorrow’s meeting with Ireland, when they come up against a far more experienced halfback pairing in Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.

“We know them very well, they’re Ireland’s key players,” said Ntamack of the Irish halfbacks. “Clearly, we have to pay close attention to them. We have focused on them since the beginning of the week.

“We know all too well that the whole of Ireland’s game plan is orchestrated by them and we have to be extremely vigilant. Of course, Ireland have good players littered throughout their side but we have to pay extra close attention to those two and above all put pressure on them from the start.”

Sexton is 14 years older than his opposite number for tomorrow and his recent nomination for World Rugby Player of the Decade underlines the impact he has had on the game with Leinster and Ireland.

Ntamack is happy to admit that he looks up to the Ireland captain, although he’s determined not to be daunted by the challenge of lining up opposite Sexton for the second time.

“He’s a role model for me and for lots of players, I believe,” said Ntamack. “He is world-class and maybe the best out-half of the past decade. He proves that every weekend either for his province or his country. He’s tireless and has enormous experience.

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romain-ntamack-celebrates Ntamack will partner Antoine Dupont in the halfbacks. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He may be a role model for me but this weekend it’s imperative I don’t allow him the freedom to do what he does best. Above all, I can’t stand by watching him and allowing him to play because if I do, things will become very difficult for us.”  

Ntamack will look to guide les Bleus around the pitch at Stade de France with his calm influence, while he is more than capable of exploiting space with his kicking and running game if Ireland slip defensively.

The same can be said for scrum-half Dupont, who is in red-hot form coming into this game and poses a major threat with his sniping around the ruck, support running, and also his ability to strip the ball from carriers in explosive defensive contributions.

“Wow, he’s some player, isn’t he?” says Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

“They’ve got threats all across the backline but Dupont, he’s a fighter, isn’t he? He’s a winner as well.

“He’s not just got all the skill, he’s got the will to win as well and his strength is one of his biggest strengths. He’s a threat so he’s somebody that we’ve talked heavily about this week.”

Pragmatists Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join the deludedly optimistic Gavan Casey to look ahead to the big one in Paris:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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