Antoine Dupont in Super Rugby? All Blacks great demands NZ Rugby ‘invests in international players’

Colin Newboult
France's Antoine Dupont walks in the try zone after his team scores a try the pitch.

France's Antoine Dupont looking on.

Ex-All Black Jeff Wilson believes that an international flavour could significantly benefit Super Rugby Pacific, and thus, the game in New Zealand.

The 50-year-old is positive about the direction of the sport in the country after big crowds flocked to the Blues’ and Highlanders’ home games last weekend.

In Auckland, almost 26,000 people were in attendance as the hosts overcame the Hurricanes 31-27, while in Dunedin, over 18,000 watched on as the ‘Landers defeated the defending champions Crusaders 32-29.

With things looking up in Wilson’s eyes, the former wing insists that New Zealand Rugby must take advantage of the entertaining product that is happening on the field.

That could therefore mean bringing in the likes of Antoine Dupont or Romain Ntamack – the latter even expressing an interest – or other top name players, according to the ex-wing.

‘Now is the time’

“Now is the time if you’re New Zealand Rugby to invest in this competition. If you want the best All Blacks side, you need to have the premier club competition in the world,” he said on The Breakdown.

“It’s time to invest in that and bring the best players here. What we’re getting in the quality of rugby, what we’re starting to see in the entertainment factor…”

Fellow panellist Sir John Kirwan then interjected and asked: “What do you mean by the best players here?” To which Wilson replied: “You keep them at home because some of those guys head offshore. But also, maybe getting some of the international players.

Kirwan remained sceptical, adding: “New Zealand Rugby’s not going to invest”, but Wilson states that it is a necessity if Super Rugby is going to return to its halcyon days.

“Well, they have to because if you want the best out of your players going into the All Blacks, you need this competition to be as strong as it can possibly be,” he said.

“It’s not that right now because we’ve had too many quality players leave. There are still too many heading offshore, there are more going to leave.

“It’s time to invest in it. That’s not just New Zealand Rugby, that’s everybody, and understanding the ecosystem of the game.”

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Contrasting views

Wilson’s views on the overall product are in contrast to the great New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu, who feels that Super Rugby Pacific is “maybe suffering” and that he doesn’t know “how long it’s going to be around.”

Nonu thinks that the competition has been overtaken by the Top 14, Premiership and United Rugby Championship, but Wilson believes that they are “creating something special” in the southern hemisphere.

“What other competition in the world allows kids and fans on the field? How good is that? If you think about allowing the fans to get up close and personal, I don’t see it in the NBA, I don’t see it in football.

“We’re creating something special. It does create some challenges from time to time but we’re creating something special and the franchises are getting on board.

“The referees are getting on board, the players are getting on board. Everyone’s on board right now, we need the people in charge to be on board and invest into it.”

READ MORE: Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack receive huge Olympic honour ahead of Paris Games