Brian O’Driscoll: “Is Antoine Dupont really human?”

Brian O’Driscoll – the legend of Irish rugby – as rarely in the French media even on the field (1999-2014), “BOD” agreed to solve the semi-final Leinster-Toulouse for us. With his usual frankness and good humor.

During a conversation on your social networks, you warned that facing your “team” Leinster would be a little more “deceitful” (1) for Toulouse than it was last week. What can you expect?

They beat Munster, ok but Toulouse will now face a team from Ireland with twelve owners. This is a game changer, right? Leinster has more talent and they are better prepared, better trained. Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancater do a great job. Leinster also inspires a large part of Ireland’s game plans. To be clear, Leinster and Ireland are the same team. Only the shirt changes. And this team recently beat the All Blacks. There…

Is the rugby offered by the Cullen-Lancaster duo very different from the one Joe Schmidt set up ten years ago by jeopardizing his two European titles?

It was a very clear development, which was also seen in the Irish team. They can now score goals in many different situations. Trials come from as many static stages and places on the field as in the current game. This is new. Their games are less programmed, players look and play according to what they see in front of them.

Almost “French style”, if we listen to you…

Toulouse and Leinster share an obsession: to build the fastest hits in Europe and then play by adapting to what the defense has to offer. But no matter what, we have to keep playing. In Leinster, Jamison Gibson-Park plays a central role in this new approach. In Scrum, it is he who keeps this fast pace. He will definitely go up against the best Irish player of the season and the best player in the world, Antoine Dupont. Suffice it to say that their duel is worth seeing…

Certainly, the Irish press suggested this week that Gibson-Park has nothing to be jealous of Dupont and is in some ways even superior to Dupont. your opinion?

He’s also very generous to Gibson-Park… He’ll need to maintain that level of play for several seasons before he can claim this talk… See what Antoine Dupont has been up to? Is he really human?

According to the latest news, yes!

He was voted the best player in the world and I don’t see any possible conflict. He is alone on his own planet. Even in the most closed situations, he can turn everything in his favor. I hear people say: This season is not as good as last year.” But are you crazy? ! The man is being watched, watched and still doing amazing things. But he does them so often that no one is surprised anymore. We got used to the extraordinary with him. Are people saying he’s bad when he doesn’t shoot three in the match? You have to be serious though…

This is a huge tribute.

Did you see his shots on goal against Munster? Absolutely no emotion. Nothing. Body language is incredible. While those kicks are extremely important, there’s not an ounce of doubt in him. On the third shot, Ntamack raises his arms, thinking he has won. There is a moment’s hesitation. But Dupont does not give up. He’s walking on. Not a gesture, not an expression. He drops his ball, runs, hits the center of the posts, and drives away. No emotion, sensational. At that moment, I wondered if he was really human. And that’s not all.

Another ?

His physical strength is incredible. All the teams are chasing him and want him to play under pressure. Inevitably, it happens to him to be crushed or to find himself locked up. However, his strength always allows him to overcome. Young, humble, working hard for his team – which cannot be stressed enough. He has everything. Really, it’s a phenomenon. Great rugby star French for the next few years, you’re in luck.

This starization was also reproached on him, sometimes…

I’ve seen Ugo Mola reprimanded him a bit for this new celebrity, that he should keep an eye out for all those magazine front pages and not overlook the space. My opinion: do whatever you want as long as you’re good on the field. He’s amazing. So let Dupont do what he wants.

The lights are too often put on Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack. Which other player impresses you in the Toulouse standings?

Thomas Ramos. All his decisions against Munster were good. He is strong on the fundamentals of the position, stumbles very well, dares to take the initiative and take his share of risk. If he’s the last defender, he gets the job done. I know he’s part of the France group but he plays very little. I think he is a very underrated player.

Indeed, his appearance in Blue is very rare. Fabien Galthié prefers Melvyn Jaminet to him. Can you share this selection?

Some players get the coach’s attention, while others get less attention. Sometimes, for objective reasons depending on profiles or level. Sometimes for a more emotional reason, it’s not necessarily perceptible. But Fabien is an expert on Galthié: if he makes this choice, he has good reasons. And nothing should be taken from Melvyn Jaminet: a good player and an excellent striker even from long range. So valuable.

The two players will compete next year: Jaminet will go to Toulouse and Ramos chose to stay rather than avoid the competition…

(cuts) I didn’t know that, but I like it! I love this. It doesn’t go away. It’s easy to stand out when there’s competition. “Is my position an international? Ok, I’m staying and I’m holding my position.” That’s the championship. Ramos can also play the opener, see fig. winger It will be game time.

I’m not sure he’d be happy about having to change jobs…

Still one of its strengths and a great strength of French rugby in general. In the back, almost all of your players can play several positions. Jalibert, 10-15, Ntamack 10-12, Dupont 9-10, Fickou 12-14… From an Irish point of view, where we are overly expert in our subject, this fascinates me. You train complete players, that’s very French and that’s the beauty of your rugby. For a coach, it’s also just too much comfort to change associations and align with the maximum “X factor” (2) on the field at the same time.

Garry Ringrose has taken over from you with number 13, whether in Leinster or in Ireland. Now one of the best centers in the world?

He is in balance. Garry, I saw you coming very young. We saw at World Juniors that this kid has something special. But he was just emaciated, he needed to thicken. Complete, efficient in all sectors today. First of all, he is a very big worker. A rugby student. He works hard and analyzes everything: his own performance, the performance of his team, the performance of competitors. His hatching was delayed by serious injuries, frustrating for everyone. Now that he is in great shape, his position belongs to the world elite.

You speak of Leinster as your home, praising the work of Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster. Why didn’t you take any responsibility at the club?

To be honest, I never felt that way. When I quit rugby after a career of fifteen years, I finally wanted to enjoy my weekends. After all, I wasn’t going to be a coach and hit the road every weekend! And frankly, I have multiple activities on the side. I am very happy in my life. Experienced inside, I don’t miss rugby.

Retired players say they miss the locker room, the sound, the smell the most… You, right?

There is no more. I started rugby at a very young age and have benefited a lot from it. I don’t need to go to the stadium to see my former teammates who remain friends. We take a trip, have a few beers and change the world. I have no nostalgia for my time as an actor. The locker room is not that lacking. Anyway, I’m no longer a part of this. From now on, the locker room belongs to someone else, and it’s good that it does. This should be their territory, not their former glory.

Stade Toulousain recently shot Le Stade, the movie of its final season. An Inside documentary with a daily camera in the locker room. Is voyeurism disrespectful to the sacred or healthy evolution of our sport?

I’m not old and I find this very good. You have to live with time. Rugby has changed, so have the people and the players. Locker room friendships are experienced in a different way. There is nothing to regret, rugby progress is very good, it is improving. Players are there to win but also to give emotion. Clubs exist to provide entertainment and to raise money. More and more clubs are using these formats of Inside documentaries. I think this is a good thing. There’s no such thing as a state secret in the locker room, you know…

Who will win this weekend between Leinster and Toulouse?

I bet on Leinster. For several reasons. They ran a full and coherent European campaign. They are organized and scheduled for this deadline for workforce management and the end of the season. They also have a strong need to win after three years without it. On the Toulouse side, I see a certain amount of physical but also emotional wear and tear. Last week’s match will have left its mark. For all these reasons I would be surprised if Leinster were defeated. It would get a huge Toulouse Stadium. I stuck to my initial prediction: victory for Leinster by four or five points.

Is the best team always the champion or vice versa?

Not always. Sometimes a surprise slips. But it is rare. Last year Toulouse was the strongest and became the champion. This year, I find Leinster a cut above.

Five French teams in the semi-finals of the European Cup, three of them in the Champions Cup: Is it just a matter of money?

Finance is one thing. But that’s not all. First of all, I believe it’s a dynamics issue. French rugby’s is excellent, with super youths spawning everywhere and their final grand slam. And frankly, is it shocking to have three Frenchmen in the semi-finals? It’s pretty logical. At the start of the season, if my prediction had been asked, I would have definitely put Toulouse and La Rochelle and definitely Racing. And Leinster to complete the picture. The top four teams are on a date. Europe has the semi-finals it deserves.

(1) More difficult

(2) decisive players