The Wallabies are wary of a French ambush when they kick off their European tour next week, coach Robbie Deans said yesterday, with the world No 2 side expecting an onslaught from Les Bleus.
The Australian touring party, which left for Paris yesterday, start their four-test campaign at the Stade de France on November 10 before taking on England, Italy and Wales on successive weekends.
"The first one is key for us," Deans said. "The French have already expressed how important it is to them. We're playing on the Armistice weekend, so history suggests they will play out of their skins on that basis. And it's our first outing so it's very important that we get off to a good start. If we do, it will be a real fillip for the group."
Deans said he was conscious about protecting Australia's top-four ranking during the European tour.
Second behind world champions New Zealand, the Wallabies know they will need a good tour to protect their seeding for the 2015 World Cup, the draw for which will be made based on rankings on December 3.
England, France and Wales are fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, with any team outside the protected top four facing the possibility of an early showdown with the all-powerful All Blacks.
"Seedings are important, but no more so than the fact they are test matches," Deans said.
"That's the by-product - we won't be dwelling on that fact. In the background, I guess we're conscious of the fact it's an important stretch."
Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe, on his last tour before retirement, said he was looking at leaving rugby on a high by going through the tour undefeated.
It would be a significant achievement considering Australia have not had an unbeaten four-test European tour since 1996.
"It doesn't happen very often," Deans said. "That's obviously what we aspire to - we'll enter every test looking to win it."