France swept the board to win 12 from 12 Tests in a magical Six Nations Grand Slam-winning 2022 to push Fabien Galthie’s men to bookmakers’ favourites for ultimate glory.
Ireland toppled France in Dublin this year to claim a Grand Slam of their own and take the world No1 spot, but Les Bleus are still expected to deliver on home soil. Galthie’s side take on New Zealand on Friday night to open the World Cup at the Stade de France, with the Haka among the pre-match rituals to delight supporters across the globe.
Toulouse scrum-half Dupont insists France can handle any and all pressure that comes their way as hosts, however.
“We all have a responsibility to do something great at this World Cup,” said the France captain. “I’m captain, so I’m perhaps more in the limelight than the others, but we all want to write our names into the tournament’s record books, something no French side has managed to do.
“There’s pressure, because we’re expected to do well and we’ve built up people’s hopes over the last four seasons. The pressure isn’t as high as the motivation and standards we set ourselves — or our ambition.”
New Zealand enter a World Cup in the unusual position of being overlooked as favourites. They might not mind that, though, being able to go about their business under the radar.
France are having none of that, however, and expect the toughest possible clash on Friday. “The All Blacks remain the greatest team in the world in this competition, and they have several players with more than 100 caps,” said Dupont.
“These are the people who know how to play in big games, and we can trust that they will be prepared to play their best rugby.”
Galthie is in no doubt on New Zealand’s enduring quality, either.
“New Zealand have won the World Cup three times and have never lost a pool match — 31 wins in 31 matches since 1987,” said Galthie. “In the history of our sport, they are the greatest team, that’s it. They will respond accordingly.”