Frenchman Antoine Dupont underlined his outrageous class during the Investec Champions Cup pool stages topping three individual categories on the back of some brilliant performances for Toulouse.
The tournament moves into the knockout stages with the round of 16 scheduled for the first weekend of April but before that let’s take a closer look at some of the individual statistics from the pool stage.
Most offloads, clean breaks & carries
It is genuinely no surprise to see the man who continues to make rugby look easy lead three different categories. This comes even though he has been between training for the Olympics with the France Sevens side and Toulouse during the group stage.
The scrum-half easily clears everyone else in offloads made with a tohtal of 14 in just four games at 3.5 per game. The next closest player is team-mate Emmanuel Meafou with 12 whilst Northampton Saints’ Tommy Freeman (9), Bristol Bears’ Gabriel Ibitoye (8) and Bath’s Will Muir (7) round out the top five.
Dupont is joint top for clean breaks – a remarkable feat for a scrum-half. The superstar made 10 clean breaks during the pool stages as did Bath winger Joe Cokanasiga and the elusive Bordeaux finisher Damian Penaud. French duo Nolann le Garrec of Racing 92 and Louis Bielle-Biarrey of Bordeaux complete the top five with eight clean breaks apiece.
– Qu'est-ce que c'est ?
– Antoine Dupont…
– Il est où ?
– Partout! Il est partout!
— Investec Champions Cup France (@ChampionsCup_FR) January 13, 2024
Perhaps even more impressive, Dupont is streets ahead of any other player in total carries with the Frenchman notching up 71 carries a whopping 12 carries more than Freeman who managed 59. Bordeaux star Romain Buros is only one behind Freeman with Leinster’s Caelan Doris (55) and Glasgow Warriors’ Josh McKay 53 in the best five carrying players.
The numbers don’t lie and instead underline how remarkably effective Dupont is for Toulouse. However, the French giants will have to do without him in the knockout rounds as his switch to Sevens intensifies in the build-up to the Paris Olympics later this year.
As common as it is to see Dupont atop stats categories the same applies to Thomas Ramos in the points section where more often than not he leads the way. The accurate goal-kicker has been brilliant for Toulouse in the 10 shirt with 55 points in the pool stage.
Just four points behind is Harlequins superstar Marcus Smith who has looked especially lethal this season with his tally at 51. La Rochelle pivot Antoine Hastoy is in the mix with 49 whilst Saints starlet Fin Smith (47) and Le Garrec (41) also feature in the top points-scorers after some promising campaigns so far.
Interestingly the try-scoring charts are extremely level with five players all having scored four tries during the initial stage of the tournament.
Cokanasiga has been a force for Bath, scoring some brilliant and key tries earning him special praise from his coach Johann van Graan on several occasions. The robust wing is also joined by the streetwise scrum-half Le Garrec who has had his all over Racing 92’s attack in the tournament.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 16, 2023
Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Andre Esterhuizen has been at his consistent best outside Smith in Quins colours, scoring four tries. Penaud obviously features at the top of the list alongside team-mate Buros.
Making the move to a different team in a different country can come with teething issues but that was certainly not the case for Alex Nankivell who has been a revelation for Munster after making the move from the Chiefs.
The centre is streets ahead in this category with a total of 26 defenders beaten which averages at 6.5 per game – a stat that showcases his class at a time when Munster needs it desperately considering their lengthy injury list.
12 – @munsterrugby’s Alex Nankivell beat 12 defenders against Northampton, the first time that a Munster player has beaten 10+ defenders in a @ChampionsCup match since Opta have recorded this data and the joint-most by any player over the weekend (also Freddie Steward). Slippery. pic.twitter.com/pqcFZJ9N2X
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) January 22, 2024
Second on the list with 18 is Stormers loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani who seems to be writing his own manual on how to play in the back-row. His deceptive pace and evasive running has been outstanding for the Capetonians with many calling for the star to get a chance in the Springboks’ green and gold.
Only one behind is Buros who has already been mentioned several times, highlighting how key he has been in a powerful pool stage for Bordeaux. Smith also features again with 16 defenders beaten alongside Penaud.
There are the try-scorers and then there are the hard-working defenders and top of this list is the industrious Munsterman John Hodnett who has made 65 tackles in the pool stage – seven ahead of anyone else.
The challengers line up close to each other with Exeter Chiefs’ Greg Fisilau (58), Quins star Will Evans (57), Leinster’s James Ryan (56) and Bath’s Charlie Ewels (54) all in the top five.