Writer Patrick Johnston tells us what it's like to see the show up close

The Antoine Dupont train has left the station: Next stop, Los Angeles.

You knew Dupont’s arrival on the sevens stage was going to be big, but in this world of diminished media, the gaggle of French reporters following his every move this past weekend at BC Place in Vancouver stood out.

The former World Rugby Player of the Year truly was a big deal. That at least a half-dozen French media outlets decided that sending staff halfway around the world was a worthwhile spend confirmed this.

The sevens series — now known as SVNS — is usually a travelling carnival. The fans who march into the tent and sit around the ring, waiting for the show to start, don’t tend to know where the teams last were. They might know a few names from year to year — Perry Baker? He’s still playing?! — but they’re mostly there for the experience of the weekend, for the crowd vibes and hopefully a few moments of sensational athleticism from athletes who are otherwise unknown to them.

But in Vancouver, again, the Dupont SVNS show stood out. Rugby isn’t a big sport in Canada, but Canadian rugby fans know their sport. And Dupont is a name they all knew.

He was a player they watched with great expectation. And they got what they hoped for.

Sure he was a bench player for Jerome Daret’s squad, but he was electric every time he stepped on the pitch.

And the crowd showed their appreciation more than once.

No avoiding the Antoine Dupont SVNS experience

Dupont sought to deflect the attention, telling reporters his team-mates deserved the attention, given they’d put so much more time into their Olympic dream than he had to date. He was still learning how to manage his way through a tournament format, which presents challenges on top of learning how defensive systems work and where the gaps and the attacking opportunities were compared to what his brain has been conditioned to look for in XVs.

“I’m going to stay humble and just learn for now,” he declared in French. “I’m with some very experienced players, some very experienced staff.”

For veterans of the series, the energy of the Vancouver crowd is a well-known thing. There’s always a crowd in earlier and they keep their energy flowing through the day. They keep their spirits up by dancing, singing and chanting for hours on end.

Their energy is channelled by the players, who need all the help they can get to survive three long days of action. He’s clearly learned that much.

“That’s the magic of sevens,” he said with a smile.

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