This will be the most difficult Guinness Six Nations yet according to France coach Fabien Galthié, who wants his side to build the final step that can take them over the top.
After finishing runners-up in each of the last two campaigns, France enter this year’s Championship hoping to lift the trophy, having last done so back in 2010.
With two home games to start, against Italy and then Ireland, and another clash with England at the Stade de France to finish, there is a good opportunity for a France team who won three from three in the Autumn Nations Series including a convincing win over New Zealand.
But Galthié is only too aware of how tough this year’s Championship will be.
He said: “This Championship is always very difficult because every team has great potential to win and every game is different and unique. They have different strategies and tactics. Our ambition is to win our games and win the competitions.
“Our ambition has remained the same and we have learned a lot from all these experiences. We keep improving as a staff and as players, who have improved the level of maturity. We want with this great experience that we keep nurturing, to be able to build the last step and achieve the last stage in the process. We are building that last step.”
The 40-25 success over the All Blacks was one of the standout results of the Autumn Nations Series and the latest proof that Galthié is building a formidable side.
And while he has not yet had the opportunity to gauge whether the players have grown in confidence since that success, from afar, he believes there has certainly been a change in mindset.
He added: “We had the game and said goodbye. We’ve been together again for two days and haven’t had time to talk about it. We’ve not had time to realise the impact of the victory on the players. As far as I could see when they have been in their clubs, they have looked happy and kept growing and enjoyed playing. They look happy and physically well.”