Away wins in Rome and Dublin boded well for France’s chances of getting their hands on the Six Nations trophy at long last in 2021.
But a late Maro Itoje try at Twickenham saw their chances of the Grand Slam come to an end and put a serious dent in their title ambitions.
The theme of dramatic finishes continued when France hosted Wales, this time with Les Blues coming out on top, 32-30, thanks to Brice Dulin’s last-minute winner.
That meant Les Bleus needed to cross at least four times and to win by at least 21 points in their final fixture, the rearranged encounter with Scotland. But they lost out, 27-23, with Duhan van der Merwe scoring his second try at the death.
Following yet another Six Nations near-miss, France took an experimental squad to Australia and performed well despite losing the series 2-1.
Most of their big-time players were back on board for the Autumn Nations Series in November, which brought wins against Argentina and Georgia before the All Blacks were famously beaten by Les Bleus for the first time since 2009.
An outbreak of COVID-19 in the France squad has disrupted Six Nations 2021 preparations and captain Charles Ollivon, the competition’s top try-scorer in 2020, is missing from the back row through injury.
Nevertheless, momentum and self-belief that this could be France’s year has been building for some time and the win over the All Blacks has only heightened those expectations further.
FRANCE v ITALY, STADE DE FRANCE, 6 FEBRUARY (KICK-OFF: 15:00 GMT)
For the second consecutive Championship, France take on Italy on the opening weekend. A repeat of last year’s 50-10 win would be most welcome for a team looking to get on an early roll.
Antoine Dupont and France were simply too good for the Azzurri in the 2021 encounter in Rome, their talisman and scrum-half setting up three tries and scoring one of his own.
France have never lost at home to Italy in the Six Nations and it is 25 years since the Azzurri have won a test on French soil.
FRANCE v IRELAND, STADE DE FRANCE, 12 FEBRUARY (KICK-OFF: 16:45 GMT)
France will be hoping home advantage counts in a game that could be pivotal to the destiny of the title.
Last year France won 15-13, their first victory in Dublin for 10 years, but the outcome could have easily gone the other way.
With the Irish still smarting from that defeat and barely anything to choose between the teams in recent years, this could be an epic encounter.
SCOTLAND v FRANCE, MURRAYFIELD, 26 FEBRUARY (KICK-OFF 14:15 GMT)
France will know all about Finn Russell from last year’s defeat to Scotland and from his time in French club rugby with Racing 92.
Stopping him weave his magic will be top of Les Bleus’ agenda as they look to register back-to-back wins in Edinburgh for the first time since 2014.
Again, this is a historically close fixture with an average winning margin of just seven points in the last decade of meetings at Murrayfield.
WALES v FRANCE, PRINCIPALITY STADIUM, 11 MARCH, (KICK-OFF 20:00 GMT)
After a fortnight off, France head to Cardiff.
The Principality Stadium is a cauldron at the best of times but with this match falling on a Friday, Les Bleus will have to withstand a hot-house atmosphere as well as the threat the reigning champions pose, with or without a host of their leading lights.
One man who knows all about the hostility his side will face is France defence coach, Shaun Edwards. Edwards served as Warren Gatland’s assistant for many a year during one of the most successful periods in Welsh rugby history.
France won in Cardiff in 2020 but the previous two visits ended in one-point defeats.
FRANCE v ENGLAND, STADE DE FRANCE, 19 MARCH, (KICK-OFF 20:00 GMT)
What better way to round off Super Saturday than the latest edition of ‘Le Crunch’?
Decades of rivalry make this one of the must-watch matches in the international calendar. As two of the Six Nations’ historically strongest teams, the title could well be on the line when the 15th and final match of the 2021 Championship gets underway.
England have only beaten France in Paris four times in the Six Nations era.
FRANCE’S SIX NATIONS 2022 FIXTURES (ALL TIMES GMT)
FRANCE v Italy, Stade de France, 6 February, 15:00
FRANCE v Ireland, Stade de France, 12 February, 16:45
Scotland v FRANCE, Murrayfield, 26 February, 14:15
Wales v FRANCE, Principality Stadium, 11 March, 20:00
FRANCE v ENGLAND, Stade de France, 19 March, 20:00