RBS Six Nations 2013 - France preview
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 28/01/13 2:54pm
Having enjoyed a rare clean sweep in their autumn Tests - including wins over Australia and Argentina - France will head to the Six Nations in confident mood.
Philippe Saint-Andre has built on the squad that reached the World Cup final in 2011 but established a harmony that was lacking under Marc Lievremont.
And there is a feeling among the French that had circumstances not conspired against them then they could have had a good shot at the Six Nations title last season.
Having won their opening game against Italy, freezing temperatures forced the match against Ireland in Paris to be postponed. The rearranged scheduling for the match left them having to play three big Tests on the bounce, while their rivals were able to rest and recover.
And following the 17-17 draw with the Irish, the wheels came off as they lost to England and Wales.
Les Bleus regrouped brilliantly, though, and following a narrow defeat in Argentina in the summer they have subsequently rattled off four successive wins.
The Pumas were thumped in the second Test, while in the autumn internationals the Wallabies were ruthlessly demolished and Argentina and then Samoa were bushed aside with ease.
The French pack will once again be a force to be reckoned with - particularly up front - while in Mathieu Bastareaud and Wesley Fofana they have two fearsome runners in the backs. Also the form of Frederic Michalak adds an extra dimension to their play.
Coach: Philippe Saint Andre
Captain: Pascal Pape
Key man: Frederic Michalak
Last season: 4th
SkyBet Odds: 2/1
Prediction: 2nd - They are on a four-match winning run and look in a strong position to contest for the title. The fixtures could count against them, though, and their clash at Twickenham against England will be pivotal to their hopes.