Antoine Dupont will switch from 15s to sevens this summer as he bids to win Olympic gold for the host nation France. | Anne-Christine Poujoulat (AFP via Getty Images)

Antoine Dupont is held in the highest regard by rugby supporters.

Last month, the scrum-half won his second career European Champions Cup title with Toulouse and was named the continent’s Club Player of the Year to boot.

Awarded the World Rugby Player of the Year title in 2021, the captain of the France national team is tipped by many to regain the sport’s most prestigious individual honor later this year.

For now, however, he’s winning plaudits for his emphatic stance against homophobia, made in a cover interview with his homeland’s most popular gay magazine, Tetu.

“No more taboo or shame” reads the headline accompanying an intense close-up image of the 27-year-old, who is switching from 15s to play rugby sevens at the Paris Olympics.

Released this week, the edition’s scoop has received huge coverage across France, where rugby is the second most watched sport after soccer — and surpasses it for popularity in the south-west, where Dupont is from, and the south-east.

Encouragingly, he is using his substantial platform to be unequivocal about his allyship. “Homophobia is not an opinion, but an offence,” he says.

“And from now on, if a player makes homophobic remarks on the pitch, I think I would stop the match. Because things have to change.”

Rugby has a much more inclusive reputation in France than soccer which continues to be dogged by homophobia, with 67% of fans telling a recent YouGov poll that it’s a serious problem in the country.

However, there has never been a top-tier player in France who has publicly come out as gay or bi.

In 2021, prop forward Jeremy Clamy-Edroux was one of six French elite athletes who spoke about being LGBTQ in a TV documentary — he is still with second-tier team Rouen.

“I doubt there’s [only] a single gay player on the pitch,” says Dupont. “Even though rugby can be seen as macho, we’re very open-minded and I think today we’re all able to accept each other’s sexuality.”

He continues: “Those who hide it must be having a hard time. You have to tell them there’s nothing to worry about. I think the attitudes are there, so we have to say it loud and clear.

“I think that it’s also our responsibility, as players, team-mates or opponents, to speak out and show that there’s no problem for us, that we accept everyone.

“So, we really need to keep repeating it, we need to communicate about it so that everybody is comfortable with it.”

It’s not just in terms of speaking out where Dupont has long been comfortable.

He was among a group of players who stripped off for the 2020 edition of the legendary Dieux de Stade calendar.

Then two years ago, he took part in another revealing photoshoot, this time for French GQ.

He’s all about breaking down stereotypes in his sport which he feels are more of a factor for those on the outside looking in.

“We still assimilate rugby, which is a sport of strength, of combat, to this slightly macho side where you have to be a man, a real one,” he adds. “But today, I think we have overcome all these constraints.”

The men’s rugby sevens at the Olympics will run from 24 to 30 July, with hosts France one of 12 competing teams.

There were 16 out LGBTQ players in sevens at the last Games in Tokyo — all were in the women’s tournament.

For closeted male rugby players, Dupont’s supportive words will serve as a reassurance, even if those players aren’t yet ready to share their truth with the world this summer.