Ronan O’Gara has hailed France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont as the world’s “most dangerous” player in the build-up to the blockbuster Six Nations clash between France and Ireland in Paris on Saturday.
A legendary Ireland flyhalf, O’Gara retired in 2013 and now coaches La Rochelle in the French Top 14.
On the Atlantic coast he is in charge of two Les Bleus squad members, No 8 Gregory Alldritt and prop Uini Atonio, who contributed to France’s impressive victory over New Zealand in November.
They are set to be key figures for their country before hosting the tournament in a little over 18 months’ time.
“France are building something special for the World Cup,” O’Gara told AFP while on a break in the Pyrenees. “They are two very important players to La Rochelle and it’s the biggest compliment that when they’re not in the team, we’re a different team.
The former Munster playmaker, Ireland’s highest points-scorer, banked two Super Rugby titles while coaching at the Crusaders between his current role at La Rochelle and coaching Racing 92’s backs to the Top 14 in 2016.
Last season he took La Rochelle to the European Champions Cup and Top 14 finals, losing both to Toulouse.
Captaining France this weekend will be world player of the year, Antoine Dupont, who helped guide Toulouse to the European and domestic double over O’Gara’s outfit.
“I’ve lost two finals to him so I haven’t stopped him,” O’Gara said. “I actually think he’s the most dangerous player around as he thrives in structured play and unstructured.
“There’s never a moment you can switch off against him.”
This weekend, O’Gara’s successor in the Ireland No 10 shirt, Johnny Sexton, will miss the fixture due to a hamstring injury.
Munster’s Joey Carbery will start at flyhalf to make just his 29th Test appearance in a young career disturbed by various injuries.
“It accelerates the development of the team as you’re going to a big game without (Sexton),” O’Gara said. “I was shocked to hear that it’s Joey Carbery’s first Six Nations start so that’s tough and he hasn’t had much rugby this season so it’s difficult for him.
“He’s a guy with exceptional talent. Nothing beats minutes in the saddle at that age.”
© Agence France-Presse
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