The Stade Toulousain and XV de France rugby player talks studies, hair pomade and life in Toulouse.
We don’t like to use the term ‘golden boy’ too much, as we believe it gets thrown around a little too easily. For Antoine Dupont, we’re willing to make an exception. The 23-year-old French rugby player is one of the French rugby championship’s most prominent stars, as well as a leading candidate for the French national team’s captainship. To top it all off, the scrum-half is surprisingly down to earth: while in Paris for ‘La Nuit du Rugby’ (a French rugby championship equivalent of football’s ’Ballon d’Or’ award ceremony) where he was up for a ‘player of the year’ award, he made time to sit down with us to talk daily routine, finding time to study, pre-game naps, and the weather in Toulouse.
Hello Antoine, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Antoine Dupont, I’m 23 years old, and I’m a professional rugby player. I play for Toulouse.
Did you always dream of becoming a professional rugby player, or did it just happen?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always dreamt of becoming a pro rugby player. Whenever I got asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, that’s all I’d ever answer. I’ve literally always had this goal in mind. However, it is also true that things happened quickly for me, both about my selection in the French national team and winning the French championship with Toulouse. I’m enjoying every second of it to the fullest because I’d never really expected things to go so fast. Getting called up to the French national team is the ultimate goal you know, being able to represent your country is the culmination of a career, and I really didn’t anticipate it happening so soon. I got lucky, someone was injured, I was called to replace them, I got to play. I suppose that’s also what careers are about, luck and opportunity.
Walk us through one of your training days.
I get up at about 8 am, I have breakfast, and I get ready. I generally make it to the training grounds 30 minutes before we’re scheduled to begin. I’m fortunate enough to live in the centre of Toulouse, it’s very pleasant. I drive my car or ride my scooter to the training grounds. When I get there, I have a routine I go through to prepare for the day ahead: a few mobility exercises, some stretching, basically waking my body up. In the morning, we often have video sessions, either the entire team together, or just among centres. We also work out, and then train on separate grounds. In the afternoon, we all train together.
What about game days?
I try not to have an overly complicated routine with too many rituals as that just increases the risk of something disrupting my routine and throwing me off before the game. That being said, game days are always very similar. We all share a meal before the match, and then we all head to our rooms to spend some time alone. I enjoy a good nap before a game, it helps me relax, and I can show up for the game in the best possible conditions.
You’ve already been injured. What’s the key to good recuperation?
We have staff-prepared recuperation protocols. As a young player, you tend to be more careless, taking extra care of your body only comes after a while and as you get older. Getting injured has obviously changed my perspective: quite often during training, you end up with stiff muscles, tight hips, or a variety of muscle- or joint-related aches and pains. Consequently, we end up in the hands of the physios. That’s the advantage when you have wonderful staff, the care is top-notch.
You play rugby full-time, but you’re also still in the middle of your studies. How do you manage to balance both activities?
Yes, I’m supposed to complete my master’s degree in sport management this year. I’m not going to lie; I’ll be happy when it’s over (laughing). Finding time for both activities isn’t always easy. Sometimes I have to go to Marcoussis, the French national team training grounds, for extended periods. Some guys in my class help me with the lessons, keep me up to date, include me in their working groups, and I manage to stay on top of things. Exam season is always rough though, as I have to make sure I have all the lessons I might have missed, find time to cram, etc.
Is studying a way to prepare for life after rugby?
In all honesty, I still struggle to imagine what type of career I might want to lead one day. For example, when I had to choose what university to go to, I was completely lost. I originally intended to study physics and chemistry, imagine that! I ended up studying sport sciences, followed by sport management. I tried to stick to a generalist curriculum, in order to have a solid foundation with as many future opportunities as possible. For people my age, trying to imagine what job you want to do for the rest of your life is hard enough as it is, so imagine what it’s like when you already have a full-time occupation!
You travel a lot, as most athletes do. How do you ensure everywhere you go feels as comfortable as possible?
Even as a kid, I was never really bothered by travelling. I’ve always enjoyed seeing new places, moving about. You get used to spending time on the road, I don’t find it to be any trouble at all. I always travel with my phone, my tablet, course materials I have to learn or read up on — in particular during exam season. Depending on the period, I also like to bring books with me. I’m currently reading Rafael Nadal’s biography. I’d read an article about him in a French newspaper, where he basically said that having a positive mindset was the key to success, there was no point in feeling sorry for yourself. That stayed with me, especially given my recent hardships. Mentally, Nadal is like no other. In the world of elite, high-performance sports, he’s a model many looks up to. When it comes to his mindset, I find him inspiring. I try to travel light, which is made easier by the fact that we spend more time in training gear than regular day-to-day outfits. More space in the suitcase for something else.
How important are your looks to you?
Full disclosure: increasingly important. I used to care very little, but we’re getting more and more exposure as players, so you must be careful. I have my shower gel, my shampoo, my toothpaste, a matte finish wax pomade to style my hair, and a moisturiser. I spend an inordinate amount of time showering, so it’s crucial to moisturise properly.
Are you a rugby super fan, or are you more inclined to completely avoid anything rugby-related when you’re not playing or training?
Truth be told, I struggle to switch off. I watch a lot of matches, and even if I’m injured, I don’t completely switch off. For example, I often go to the stadium, even to see friends play. I really love it. I also enjoy Toulouse a lot, even though I never used to be an urbanite. I spend a lot of time with the rest of my team: we train together, and then we’ll go out for a meal or drinks. We’re young, we don’t have kids yet, so there’s no sense in not making the most of it. Toulouse is a very pleasant place to live, it’s a beautiful city, and there’s always something going on. Also, the weather is so much better than in Paris (laughing).