France’s Les Bleus

France is well known for the Tour de France, the Eiffel Tower and its capital Paris as well as numerous inventions and modern day republicanism.  Despite being the most visited place in the world, France is also commonly known for their its well-established rugby culture.  The French Rugby Union has the bragging rights of one of Europe’s most elite rugby leagues, the French Top 14 – regarded as the richest league in the sport. 
 
Players all over the world seem to be traveling to France to further their careers.  The national team traditionally plays in blue shirts with white shorts and red socks, with a golden rooster imposed upon a red shield, and are commonly referred to as Les Bleus.  The French compete annually in the 6 Nations having last won the competition in 2010. 
 
Since the start of the Rugby World Cup back in 1987, France has qualified for the knock-out stage of every tournament but the golden trophy has always eluded them despite reaching the final three times.  The French are famous for causing upsets come World Cup time, which every New Zealander would fully agree with.  They defeated tournament favourites the All Blacks in both 1999 and 2007 and in 1999 and 2011 were not regarded contenders but found themselves in the final. 
 
Coach Philippe Saint-André has selected seven of the players from their agonising 8-7 defeat to the New Zealanders in 2011’s final.  The likes of captain Thierry Dusatoir, Pascal Papé, Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Fulgence Ouedraogo and the mercurial Freddie Michalak have all made the cut this time around.  Saint-Andre’s side has won one of their crucial warm-up matches, against England 25-20, and will be hoping to do the same when it faces Scotland on 5 September ahead of the global showpiece. 
 
The France squad came together at Marcoussis on 6 July to step up preparations for the Rugby World Cup which will see them face Ireland, Italy, Canada and Romania in Pool D and depending on how it goes, a quarter-final meeting against the Kiwis beckons.
 
France Rugby World Cup squad:
 
Forwards: U. Atonio, E. Ben Arous, D. Vincent, N. Mas, R. Slimani, G. Guirado, B. Kayser, B. Szarzewski, A. Flanquart, Y. Maestri, P. Pape, T. Dusautoir (captain), B. Le Roux, Y. Nyanga, F. Ouedraogo, D. Chouly, L. Picamoles.
 
Backs: R. Kockott, M. Parra, S. Tillous-Borde, F. Michalak, R. Tales, M. Bastareaud, A. Dumoulin, G. Fickou, W. Fofana, B. Dulin, S. Guitoune, Y. Huget, N. Nakaitaci, S. Spedding.