France did little to silence the rumours of infighting and clashes with the coaches after a lacklustre, error-strewn display - with too many players looking like they would rather be somewhere else.
And Tonga took full advantage with a thrilling performance packed with desire, passion and power to record arguably their best-ever Test victory.
Even when the South Sea islanders had Sukanaivalu Hufanga sin-binned it was difficult to see which team had the extra man.
Hufanga scored a superb try in the first half - and in all honesty they could have scored so many more - while Kurt Morath added a conversion and four penalties.
For France Dimitri Yachvili landed two penalties and Morgan Parra slotted over a three-pointer of his own before Vincent Clerc scored a late try.
However France still go through to the last eight despite losing two pool games.
Yachvili had kicked France into an early lead with a second-minute penalty, only for Morath to level matters five minutes later.
Yachvili restored France's three-point advantage after 23 minutes, before the wheels well and truly came off the French challenge.
A stunning finish from Hufanga saw Tonga score their first try. Following an incisive break from Taniela Moa, Morath's cross-field kick found the Tonga winger on the touchline, with Hufanga fending off Julien Bonnaire and spinning back infield to cross. Morath converted.
Tonga's defence on their own line kept France from responding immediately - with William Servat eventually penalised for a double movement after a series of drives.
Morath converted and added another penalty to open up a seven-point advantage.
Tonga, though, were reduced to 14 men two minutes before the break Hufanga was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Vincent Clerc.
Despite the loss of Hufanga, Tonga came out firing after the break and Morath really should have done better with a shot at goal.
Parra did attempt to turn the tide with the penalty, but France were lucky to escape after they were penalised at the restart - fortunately Imanol Harinordoquy turned over possession from the lineout.
Morath missed another shot at goal, while only scrambling French defending denied the Tongans a second try.
And the news got worse for France as Fabrice Estebanez was given 10 minutes on the sidelines for a dangerous tackle - with Morath scoring the penalty.
Morath opened up a 10-point lead with his four penalty of the match before he saw another effort go just win with four minutes left.
France could have gone for a simple penalty to ensure they picked up a losing bonus point - but the gamble to go for a scrum paid off as Clerc scored out wide.
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