Les Bleues add colour to final race
As the Women's Rugby World Cup heads to Belfast for the knock-out stages it is tempting to view this as an end to the phoney war, that the battle is only just about to commence.
Equally, it is hard to escape the feeling that England, the defending champions and world No 1, have been on a collision course with New Zealand - winners of four of the last five tournaments - since day one.
Both blitzed their pool-stage opposition, cruising past the USA and Canada respectively on Thursday in what were supposed to be their hardest assignments. New Zealand have amassed 213 points, scoring 35 tries, while England have crossed the whitewash 17 times. But France have been equally impressive in the third pool.
The USA demonstrated their finishing power in the final quarter against England but it is unlikely New Zealand will have many problems against them in Tuesday's first semi-final at Kingspan Stadium.
France, however, have been a thorn in the Red Roses' side in recent years, winning two of the last four Six Nations titles, and have shown imperious form in Dublin. It was no mean feat by France to send the hosts crashing out last Thursday.
This is the seventh time France have reached the semi-finals in eight World Cups but they have never made it to the final, finishing third on five occasions. They were expected to get there three years ago as the hosts but were stunned by Canada in a match that attracted more than 2.5 million viewers in France alone. In terms of audience nowhere is women's rugby more popular and at the last count about 17,000 women play rugby there.
France's sevens players are semi-professional, the XVs amateur, so while that means challenges in fitting training around work, the French federation compensates its players' employers for time off. They will face the only professional team in the tournament on Tuesday but the gap in terms of preparation for the World Cup is not yawning.
As the world's top two in the rankings, and having shared the trophy between them since 1994, New Zealand and England are favourites to reach Saturday's final. With Les Bleues around, not everything is as black and white as it seems.
Sunday Indo Sport