The French have put in a near faultless performance as quivering underdogs in the lead-up to their clash with the Wallabies this weekend. But one spirited line gave the game away.
It came from lock Pascal Pape, France's interim captain, who talked up Australia as the only side in the world right now that could challenge the All Blacks, in spite of their injury toll.
Pape was asked, after an appearance at an autograph-signing session near the Champs-Elysees, what he thought of his Australian counterpart, Nathan Sharpe.
He might have flirted with an answer lavishing translated praise on the Wallabies veteran captain but the French pride bit through.
"We expect that he won't have too good a memory of his last game in Paris," Pape said.
And there it was. Les Bleus might be stacked with rookies and they might have had only nine days to prepare for "the second best team in the world", but you can bet your beret they think they can beat the Wallabies.
"We're not looking back," Pape said when asked about the legacy of France's demoralising loss to Australia at Stade de France in 2010.
"Most of the squad have changed now, even the staff, we don't really focus on that defeat, even though it was a historic defeat, it's [looking] forward now, it's behind us now."
There is much riding on this Test for both nations. Pape called it a "double challenge" - to beat Australia and sneak into the top four in the international rankings, which would put them in a strong position ahead of the 2015 rugby world cup draw in London next month.
The Stade Francais lock, who took over the captaincy when Thierry Dusautoir was ruled out through injury, said the Wallabies had achieved a lot despite this season's challenges.
"Even [for] a team with difficulties, they finished second in the [Rugby Championship] series, they are the only ones who have been able to challenge the All Blacks," Pape said.
"For me it's probably the second best team in the world at the moment who is facing us on Saturday (local time), even if there are some players missing."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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