France remain the great enigmas as they prepare to launch the defence of their RBS 6 Nations crown.
Whichever of the Jeckyl and Hyde French teams turn up at Twickenham on February 13 could determine the outcome of the championship.
On their day, Les Bleus are virtually untouchable and they are already many pundits' favourites to lift the World Cup in their own backyard in 2007.
But their inconsistencies, amply illustrated by their wildly-swinging fortunes in the autumn internationals, are enough to drive coach Bernard Laporte to distraction.
France, who completed the Grand Slam in 2004, gained an impressive 27-14 victory over Australia but successive home defeats by Argentina (24-14) and New Zealand (45-6) sent the beleaguered Laporte back to the drawing board.
Former international captain, now director of rugby at Sale, Philippe Saint-Andre admits inconsistency remains a worrying factor but tries to put the autumn results in context and insists it was not all bad news.
"The French team didn't play particularly well in November," he concedes.
"For the first game against Australia, everybody was focused and the players maybe gave 120%. The week after Bernard Laporte fielded exactly the same team but maybe they were less focused.
Saint-Andre believes Laporte's men will derive a considerable boost from recent victories by French teams in the European Cup but he acknowledges this year's RBS 6 Nations could be the most open for years.
France have an awkward trip to Lansdowne Road, in addition to Twickenham, and Saint-Andre is impressed with the gradual improvement of both Ireland and Wales.
"There are not just two teams but four teams in contention," he insists.
"I think it will be very interesting and very open because you have England, of course, you have France and also Wales, who played very well in November, and Ireland.
"France won the Grand Slam last year because they had a good fixture list but this year they have to make dangerous trips to England and Ireland. It will be tough for France to beat England at Twickenham.
"They have to build again with a new team and new squad for the next World Cup, whereas Ireland and Wales have improved a lot. There should be many exciting games."
England flanker James Haskell insists he will be pushing as hard as possible to be back from a toe injury in time to make his case for a spot in Eddie Jones' side looking to defend their RBS 6 Nations title next year.