France came off the pitch against Tonga knowing that they had been in a battle, eventually running out 23-21 winners in Kumamoto.
Les Bleus led 17-0 just after the half-hour mark, but then were forced to withstand a huge fightback from Toutai Kefu’s side.
Eight years after a pool stage defeat to the Tongans, France avoided a repeat, but were pushed to the limit before clinching their place in the quarter-finals.
Charles Ollivon was one of the standout performers for Les Bleus, and had a second-half try ruled out for a forward pass.
And the Toulon back-rower admitted that France had been hanging on against a very good side.
He said: “There was not a lot in it. We had two tries disallowed and one of theirs was marginal. But in any case, you cannot underestimate this Tonga team. It was a real battle, very hard and they didn’t give us an inch.
“We could have killed off the game earlier but the quality of the opponent and our handling errors meant that they stayed in it. I want to be positive and say that we didn’t give up in an arm wrestle, like against Argentina and the USA. It’s not enough but I want to be positive.”
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France have now won three from three at this World Cup, having already seen off Argentina and the USA.
From a physical perspective though, this match was the most difficult of the lot according to Ollivon.
He added: “They are bigger than us and three-quarters of the teams in the tournament. When they started to pick and go, we were pushed back and conceded a try.
“We focused all our physical preparation on speed and movement, they clearly did not. They are machines! We’re battered and it’s clear that you could not go out there without being prepared.”