PARIS - France got off to a near-perfect start in their home World Cup curtain raiser by beating New Zealand 27-13, yet they know there is a lot to improve if they are to lift the Webb Ellis trophy in seven weeks.
Les Bleus were fired up in the second half of the game on Friday, brutal at the rucks and clinical in attack with two tries through Damian Penaud and Melvyn Jaminet to score 18 unanswered points.
Coach Fabien Galthie and his assistants were satisfied with the win against an All Blacks side, who were previously unbeaten in all 31 of their previous World Cup pool games, but they were quick to point out the team's shortcomings in defence.
France missed 21 tackles in the first half and assistant coach Laurent Labit was not so happy with Penaud's performance in that area.
"We would like Damian to do more. Sometimes he carries the ball instead of moving it around and it puts the team off balance," Labit told a press conference on Saturday.
"Defensively, he can do better. He is a formidable scorer but he must work more. He's at 70% of his capacities."
Penaud scored his 30th international try to put France ahead for good after the break and his ability to finish it off is one of France's best weapons.
France, who are assisted by former referee Jerome Garces, who held the whistle in the 2019 World Cup final, produced a disciplined display.
They were penalised only four times in 80 minutes - an impressive achievement for a side who had little possession in the first half.
Despite their flaws, Les Bleus still crushed the All Blacks to underline their might.
"When you look at it it's incredible to score almost 30 points against them," said captain Antoine Dupont.
"We know we're capable of doing better, especially in the first half, but also after the break when we must play certain situations better.
"There were times when we did not play collectively - not because we were being selfish, but because we played too safely, being kind of scared to make the extra pass."
France now have a few weeks to fine tune their tactics with three relatively comfortable encounters against Uruguay, Namibia and Italy, before a potential quarter-final clash against defending champions South Africa or top-ranked Ireland.
Their players are also nursing injuries, with hooker Julien Marchand undergoing tests early next week after sustaining a thigh muscle issue and being forced out of the game early on.
"For Thursday's game (against Uruguay in Lille), we still have two hookers and some props can also play number two, even though they would need to work on the lineouts," said Labit. REUTERS