Antoine Dupont beats Maro Itoje to be crowned World Rugby Player of the Year

France 's decade-long wait for a World Rugby Men's Player of the Year award has ended after star scrum-half Antoine Dupont was crowned the sport's best talent for 2021.

Toulouse talisman Dupont received two thirds of the public vote and beat a world-class shortlist of contenders that included England 's Maro Itoje, as well as Australia duo Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi.

He is the first Frenchman to clinch rugby 's greatest individual honour since former Bleus captain Thierry Dusautoir in 2011, and the third overall after incumbent France coach Fabien Galthie won it in 2002.

Dupont has attracted major plaudits in recent years for his ability to impact games, either as a direct running threat with ball in hand or creating opportunities for others.

World Rugby praised Dupont's contributions over the past year and wrote: "The 25-year-old’s reading of the game, allied with his passing speed and turn of pace, invariably mean he’s in the right place to start or finish off a flowing French attack.

"He crossed for three tries in the Six Nations and then was handed the captaincy for the Autumn Nations Series, leading France to three wins, including a first over New Zealand on home soil since 2000."

Dupont looked back on that win over New Zealand as the highlight of his international career to date when Toulouse and France team-mate Anthony Jelonch assisted in revealing 2021's Player of the Year:

The recipient was clearly surprised at the award and explained his delight that Jelonch was the one handing it over, with the pair having boarded together in school when they were 15 years old.

Dupont's gong is particularly well-timed considering France are currently preparing to host the next Rugby World Cup in 2023, by which point they'll be hoping his considerable abilities have only improved.

The 35-cap star was instrumental to France's fortunes as they finished a close second in this year's Six Nations before going on to claim three wins from three during their autumn internationals series.

Galthie's side capped off that run with an emphatic 40-25 win over New Zealand, and Dupont was instrumental as Les Bleus secured a win over the All Blacks in rare style.

Who would get your pick as the 2021 World Rugby Men's Player of the Year? Let us know in the comments section.

Dupont was also among the most essential members of a Toulouse team that won a historic double by winning the Champions Cup and Top 14—though the Player of the Year vote accounts only for international feats.

Meanwhile, England forward Zoe Aldcroft was named World Rugby Women's Player of the Year ahead of team-mate Poppy Cleall and the French pair of Caroline Boujard and Laure Sansus.

The Red Roses celebrated 2021 with an end-of-year double after England women's chief Simon Middleton was named World Rugby Coach of the Year.

Dupont is currently in Wales as Toulouse prepare to begin their Champions Cup title defence against Cardiff on Saturday, with the hosts currently missing 32 players due to Covid-19 quarantine protocols.

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