v Georgia - 30 September, 1400 BST, Marseille
Recent form: Having won the Six Nations they beat England twice and Wales once in the build-up to the tournament to cement their position as top dogs in Europe. However, in between they got absolutely hammered in New Zealand, shipping more than 100 points in two Tests.
Coach: Bernard Laporte's eight-year stint at the helm has seen a more pragmatic approach adopted, but he hasn't ironed out the inconsistencies. They throw a bad game in every now and then and the bald, bespectacled Laporte knows that one more from the start of the quarter-finals will be his last. He is set for a new job as Sports Minister.
Captain: Hooker Raphael Ibanez has seen off the challenge of fellow veteran and good friend Fabein Pelous to win the nod as skipper. The 34-year-old, who captained France to the 1999 final, retired from Test rugby in 2003. However, a move to Wasps has given him a second wind on the big stage.
World Cup pedigree: Yet to make that final step to silverware having reached two finals, in 1987 and 1999. They also had the skids put under them in two rain-affected semi-finals in 1995 and 2003 when they were sunk by eventual champions South Africa and England respectively.
World Cup high: At 24-10 down against tournament favourites New Zealand in the 1999 semi-finals France conjured a remarkable comeback and ran out 43-31 winners in a quite exceptional exhibition of running rugby.
World Cup low: The anti-climax of losing the next weekend to Australia 35-12 in the most one-sided final since... the first, in 1987, when France lost 29-9 to New Zealand having got there off the back of another wonderful semi-final win.
World Cup legend: Christophe Lamaison scored a full house in that 1999 Twickenham win over New Zealand, did not miss a kick all day and was the catalyst to the comeback. All that after coming in as a late replacement.
Present star: Giant centre Yannick Jauzion is a genuine world-class performer and the point around which the backs can orbit as he invariably holds the ball up when going into contact for runners to pick off his shoulder. But he needs to hit his straps after a below-par season for club and country.
Maverick: A tete-a-tete between full-back Clement Poitrenaud and fit-again fly-half Frederic Michalak. Each is capable of mixing the mercurial with the miserable and are always worth keeping an eye on, whatever the state of play.
Enforcer: Sale's Sebastian Chabal has a Neanderthal air to him with long lank hair and a big, bushy beard. He has often been viewed as a throw-back lacking the fitness to last the distance in the Test arena, but his destructive tackling and powerful gain-line breaks could prove crucial off the bench.
Strengths: As well as their unpredictability and the support that playing at home can foster, benevolent organisers have ensured they have a relaxing 24 days to negotiate the four pool games - almost a week more than their second opponents, Namibia.
Weaknesses: As well as their unpredictability and the pressure that playing at home can foster, the fulcrum of the side at half-back is far from settled.
World Cup base: Marcoussis (from 4 September)
Did you know? Sebastian Chabal is a man of numerous nicknames, the most popular being Sea Bass. In France he is affectionately known as The Caveman or l'Homme des Cavernes.
They say: "I believe we will be at least as good as in 2003 - and I hope a bit better." Yannick Jauzion
You say: "I can see a scenario where Argentina get on top of France early and the famously critical home fans exert even more pressure. They lose that one and, deflated, lose against Ireland. Virtually any combination between those three is possible. Sorry to sit on the fence!" happytravelling on 606
World ranking: 3
Our verdict: If they can handle being hosts and feed off the support they can go all the way. The showpiece opening game against Argentina will go a long way to telling us whether they are up to the challenge.
Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.