Olympic gold 'the Holy Grail' for French rugby star Antonie Dupont. GETTY IMAGES

One of France's top players, the fifteens captain, has pulled out of the Six Nations to "train" in the reduced format ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"The Holy Grail" is how scrum-half Antoine Dupont describes his quest for Olympic gold with the French Sevens team in Paris this summer. The pinnacle. For Dupont, the Olympic dream is the greatest goal an athlete can have. That is why the France 15s captain decided to sit out this year's Six Nations to "train" in the reduced format. He sacrificed one of the world's most prestigious tournaments in order to prepare himself for the Olympic challenge. "We all have iconic memories of the Games, having watched them on television. It is already wonderful to be aiming for a medal," he said in a video posted on the French Olympic team's social media channels.

Antoine Dupont is a symbol of French rugby. GETTY IMAGES
Antoine Dupont is a symbol of French rugby. GETTY IMAGES

"It's the holy grail of sport," he said. Dupont will take part in the next two legs of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Vancouver and Los Angeles, while France's Six Nations team prepares to host Italy and then travel to Wales. Now the challenge will be to adapt to the new Olympic format. "It will be a bit different. It may be the same sport, but the principles of the game are different. The physical and athletic profiles are different. That's why I'm now in the full phase of learning how to play," added the French.

Dupont, 27, has been capped 52 times by France at scrum-half. He was captain at the last World Cup. France hosted the tournament and lost to South Africa in the quarter-finals. He suffered a broken jaw in the group stage against Namibia, but recovered in time to play in the quarter-finals. In November, however, he decided to sit out the Six Nations and concentrate on earning his place at Paris 2024. Like Dupont, a number of stars from other countries have also decided to enjoy the experience and seize the opportunity to fulfil their Olympic dreams by representing their country. 

Bryan Habana, for example, played in the 2016 World Series in search of a place on the Rio Olympic team. At Tokyo 2020, Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa) and Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand) were more fortunate. They were part of their country's Olympic squad. Several teams have featured Sevens players at previous World Cups. Among them are reigning Olympic and World champions Fiji.