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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Form guide: France
Fabien Galthie comes to grips with New Zealand's Richie McCaw back in June
France endured mixed fortunes in the World Cup build-up
France have been as inconsistent as ever in 2003, skipping from true world-beaters one minute to also-rans the next.

They have run World Cup favourites England and New Zealand close, to prove they are in contention come October in Australia.

But they have also surprisingly slipped up against Ireland and Argentina, twice.

At the start of February they were being talked about in the same breath as England as the only contenders for the Six Nations Championship.

But, after losing to the English at Twickenham, their championship ambitions were effectively over.

Jonny Wilkinson proved France's tormentor-in-chief with his 20-point haul.

From there, the team regrouped to coast past Scotland 38-8.

They ran in tries through Fabien Pelous, Clement Poitrenaud, Damien Traille and Aurelien Rougerie as they outmatched the Scots from one to 15 on the field.

But arguably the most thrilling game of the tournament saw the Gallic outfit beaten by Ireland.

In a hard-fought contest at Lansdowne Road, David Humphreys managed four penalties with Geordan Murphy slotting over a sweetly taken drop-goal.

Francois Gelez managed four penalties of his own, but the game was effectively decided by Ireland's defence, which produced arguably their best performance of 2003.

FORM IN 2003

With nothing left to play for in the tournament, France were occasionally caught napping by a free-flowing Italian line-up a fortnight later.

But they eventually proved too strong with the sort of attacking play which had been missing against both England and Ireland.

Damien Traille and Rougerie scored two tries as Dimitri Yachvili top scored with 18 points from the boot.

And pride was further restored with a commanding win against an out-of-sorts Welsh line-up.

French coach Bernard Laporte aimed to use the two-Test tour to Argentina in a bid to gel his team for the World Cup and to extend their brief winning streak.

But they became unstuck twice with 10-6 and 33-32 defeats and the tour left more questions than answers.

In the opening tie, the Pumas were unmatchable in defence and outshone the French in their brief moments of attack. After a tense match, Yann Delaigue was left ruing his poor kicking.

Try: Essai
Penalty: Penalty
Tackle: Plaquage
Come on ref: Allez l'arbitre
Cauliflower ears: Oreilles de choux-fleur

France failed to make amends a week later in another narrow defeat.

But they showed at the end of June they could still push the best when they narrowly lost to New Zealand.

Missing several key players from their pack, France ran the ball wide from the kick-off and were rewarded with first-half tries from prop Sylvain Marconnet and centre Yannick Jauzion, before a Joe Rokocoko hat-trick effectively decided the game.

France finished off their World Cup preparations with back-to-back games against England.

In leg one they fielded their first-choice side to England's seconds but only marginally edged out their old foes, Nicolas Brusque scoring a try in a one-point win.

A week on and the roles were reversed with France sending out their seconds to take on England's strongest starting XV.

France again scored a single try, from Aurelien Rougerie in the last minute, but it was late consolation at the end of a one-sided contest England won 45-14 for an aggregate two-legged score of 61-31.

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