France haven’t finished better than fourth in the Six Nations in the last five years - can they improve on that this tournament?
Coach: Guy Novès
Captain: Guilhem Guirado.
Old dog: Mathieu Bastareaud has had an eventful life and who is to say the human tank won’t make his mark in this tournament.
New face: Kevin Gourdon has five caps but the 27-year-old Clermont flanker has yet to appear in the Six Nations.
Six Nations record: 4th, 6th, 4th, 4th, 5th.
Missing the action: Wesley Fofana, who tore his Achilles. Eddy Ben Arous evidently felt his calf tighten and asked the Racing coaches to come off but was refused.
Reasons to be cheerful: France are trying to play more rugby after Philippe Saint-André’s borefest and doing a pretty good job of it – just ask the All Blacks coach ‘Shag’ Hansen who welcomed ‘old France’ back to the fray.
Reasons to be fearful: The back row are all useful and athletic but there isn’t a breakdown specialist amongst them and, alone amongst the Six Nations players, French internationals still have to report for Top 14 duty in those two down weekends.