Thierry Dusautoir faces his hardest task in more than two years since he became France captain when he leads his country into a World Cup Final against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday.
Dusautoir has been at the helm during some of French rugby's darkest recent days, notably a Six Nations defeat by Italy, two heavy losses to South Africa and Argentina, and then a record 16-59 loss to Australia, and in this World Cup a shock pool defeat by Tonga.
Amid rumours of internal strife between management and players, Dusautoir has had to try to ride out public criticism of the players from coach Marc Lievremont and ridicule from an unforgiving French press.
Dusautoir sprang to prominence when he produced an astonishing 38 tackles playing as blindside flank in France's stunning 2007 World Cup quarterfinal victory over New Zealand.
Taciturn, in a style very different from that of loquacious former captains Fabien Galthie and Raphael Ibanez, Dusautoir said French rugby chiefs were well aware of his approach before they chose him as skipper.
"I'm maybe not quite as exuberant but I'm someone who analyses things and says measured things," said the 29-year-old Toulouse back row forward.
"It's the way I am, I'm not going to change. They knew that I was like that when they selected me."
In 2010, Dusautoir, who has won three French titles with Biarritz and Toulouse and one European Cup with the latter side, captained France to their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2004.
Born in the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, to an Ivorian mother and French father, Dusautoir only arrived in France at the age of 10.
His main sport as a youngster was judo, before taking up rugby at the relatively late age of 16.
The way Dusautoir plays certainly mirrors his judo training, the flank enjoying great footwork and a composed tackling technique that shows a complete mastery of how to best distribute and use weight.
"He's a very motivational person," said France flyhalf Morgan Parra. "I think we are all leaders in our own clubs but he reminds us all what needs to be done at training, outside training.
"He leads by example with his defensive qualities."
Dusautoir said earlier this month that the France team were carrying baggage from the dip in form that followed the 2010 Grand Slam.
"Our last season wasn't good, unfortunately we're still carrying it like a burden," he said.
"Only big games and big performances will allow us to forget the bad experiences we had."
After qualifying for the knockout phase here despite losing pool matches to New Zealand and Tonga, the French displayed their mettle in a 19-12 quarterfinal win over England, before staunch defence saw them home 9-8 against a 14-man Wales.
One more big game, led from the front by the ever-present Dusautoir, could be enough to seal an improbable turnaround for his France team.
"There are maybe some people who are cheesed off to see us in the final," Dusautoir said. "We maybe don't have much talent but in any case we have heart.
"To have heart is enough to make it into the World Cup final."
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