France have reached the semi-finals in seven of the eight Rugby World Cups to date, but they have never been able to reach the title decider, instead having to settle for the bronze medal on no fewer than six occasions, including at Ireland 2017.
We take a look back at France’s Rugby World Cup story.
RWC debut: 6 April, 1991 v Japan at Diamond Ground, Cardiff
RWC appearances: Played 37 – Won 25, Drawn 0, Lost 12 – Points for 974, Points against 441 – Win ratio 68 per cent
Best finish: Third, 1991 (joint), 1994, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2017
Qualification for RWC 2021: Bronze medallist at RWC 2017
Most memorable match: French fans had high hopes going into their semi-final against Canada at RWC 2014. Following semi-final defeats to New Zealand at each of the previous three tournaments, the hosts went into the knockout stage as top seeds. However, when Magali Harvey scored and converted the try of the tournament early in the second half, Canada held an 18-6 lead. Willed on by a vociferous home crowd, France gained a foothold in the match and scored tries through Safi N’Diaye and Assa Koita in the final quarter. Sandrine Agricole was unable to convert either, though, and the Canadians held on to win 18-16.
Iconic moment: France made the most of home advantage in the RWC 2014 bronze final, edging themselves 20-18 in front of Ireland with time running out at Stade Jean Bouin. It was then that Elodie Guiglion received the ball on the left wing. A sublime step off her right foot took three Irish defenders out of the game and opened up a gap through which the winger powered to score her second try of the match and put gloss on a 25-18 victory.
Low point: Canada have proved to be something of a bogey team for France at Rugby World Cup. It was the North Americans who condemned Les Bleues to their worst tournament result, when they beat them in the quarter-finals of RWC 1998. Although France full-back Annick Hayraud scored and converted the only try of the game, it was Canada who emerged victorious 9-7, thanks to three Moira Shiels penalties.
Iconic player: Nathalie Amiel made her international debut at the age of just 15, when France played Great Britain at Richmond in 1986. It was the start of a 16-year test career, in which she represented her country at three Rugby World Cups and amassed 56 caps. Amiel captained Les Bleues at RWC 2002, leading the team to third place. As co-head coach, Amiel helped steered France to a Six Nations grand slam and victory in the RWC 2014 bronze final.
Did you know? France were the 12th and final team to confirm their entry for the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991. The tournament’s organisers were made aware of France’s decision only minutes before the official draw was due to take place.
Quote: “The [RWC] that gave me my best memory was the last one as a player, in 2002 in Spain. My family was in the stands. Overall, I preferred to experience a Rugby World Cup as a player instead of a coach. Coaching means spending more time in front of a computer than on the field.” – World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Nathalie Amiel reflects on her Rugby World Cup journey.