Stand-in captain Raphael Ibanez believes France will need "character" if they are to get their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign off to a winning start in Italy on Saturday.
Les Bleus begin the defence of their crown against a team who are regular wooden-spoonists in the tournament, but who many people acknowledge are beginning to find their feet in the international arena.
The Azzurri only claimed one point in last year's tournament, but they did take run England and Ireland close and were more than a match for the French in the first half of their clash at the Stade de France.
With France head coach Bernard Laporte picking an experimental team for the opening game of the tournament, Ibanez knows it will be far from easy at the Stadio Flaminio.
"Italy has a team that is progressing match by match, the November Tests are testimony to that," said the Wasps hooker, who will captain Les Bleus in the absence of Fabien Pelous, the regular skipper who is out with an ankle injury.
"The first match of the tournament, away from home and against a team who are difficult to play against, will demand a lot of character on our part.
"We know what to expect against a pack of strong forwards and a team who are still experimenting
"We will not be surprised by them but we must raise the level of our game."
France struggled in their three home November Tests, losing twice convincingly to the all-conquering All Blacks and scraping to a 27-26 win over Argentina.
And with the squad only gathering for the first time last weekend, Laporte has not had long to prepare with his players.
Ibanez, therefore, is demanding his colleagues get the basics right.
"Everything isn't going to be perfect against Italy, but we must compensate for our difficulties by sheer determination," he added.
"We have a lot of work to do in this tournament, notably on the simple things.
"We will try this week to get back to the things we know. There are also things to rectify in our attacking game."
Key to that attacking game will be sniping scrum-half Pierre Mignoni, who has been selected to bring more dynamism in the half-back department alongside Stade Francais fly-half David Skrela.
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