France coach Marc Lievremont's quest to finally deliver the World Cup to the northern hemisphere heavyweights entered its decisive stages on the outskirts of Paris on Tuesday as the 33-man preliminary squad gathered for the first time at their training camp.
Although the World Cup is still over two months away Lièvremont doesn't want to leave anything to chance.
The former backrow forward - who played in the 1999 World Cup Final defeat by Australia - is under a lot of pressure personally as his position was called into question several times in the last few months despite guiding the French to the Six Nations Grand Slam last year.
"The real business begins on Thursday," said Lievremont after a gentle day spent largely chatting with the players.
With the French domestic season having only finished on June 4 when Toulouse beat Montpellier in the Top 14 Final, a number of players are still nursing injuries.
Only 31 players will take part in the first phase of training with prop Thomas Domingo and veteran centre Aurelien Rougerie - both considered essential by Lievremont to the campaign - undergoing physio in the south of France after knee and foot operations respectively.
Five other players have to prove they have recovered from injury, including the top two hookers William Servat (knee) and Dimitri Szarzewski (Achilles tendon).
There are also concerns over prop Fabien Barcella (Achilles), centre Maxime Mermoz (shoulder) and utility back Damien Traille (foot).
France head into the World Cup on the back of an indifferent Six Nations championship during which they beat Scotland and Wales in Paris and Ireland in Dublin but lost away to England and Italy - the latter result prompting major criticism of Lievremont's style.
Les Bleus reached the final the last time the World Cup was played in New Zealand back in 1987 when they lost the inaugural edition to the hosts, and again in 1999.
They reached the last two semi-finals when coached by Bernard Laporte, on both occasions losing to bitter rivals England.
France, who are in the same group as New Zealand, Tonga, Japan and Canada, have two warm-up matches against Ireland in August before Lievremont names his final 30 on August 22.
Their opening match is against Japan in Auckland on September 10.
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