WELLINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) -- France captain Thierry Dusautoir has warned quarter-final opponents England not to underestimate them despite being upset 19-14 by Tonga in their concluding World Cup Pool A match on Saturday.
A late try to Vincent Clerc brought the nine-times grand slam champions within the seven-point deficit they needed to earn a bonus point and qualify for the knockout stage.
Had Clerc not scored, France would have had to wait for a further 24 hours until the conclusion of the New Zealand-Canda match, where the North Americans needed to produce an unlikely four-try victory to overtake them for second place in the pool.
"I think we have now only one match to play and that means we are focussed on (it)," a dejected Dusautoir told reporters through an interpreter after the shambolic loss to Tonga.
"All the motivation is there.
"You may wonder what is going through our heads. We have been nervous for some time but in the quarter-finals we have nothing to lose because we are the underdogs.
"The group is really upset but we will try to focus on the quarter-finals.
"We are capable of beating England, but if we play like we did against Tonga, we will be heading back to France."
England needed a late Chris Ashton try later on Saturday to edge Scotland and advance as Pool B winners, but will be confident of advancing to the semi-finals at France's expense.
France need a massive improvement for the quarter-final in Auckland, having lost their last two pool matches and been less than impressive against Canada and Japan, requiring late bursts in the final minutes of both matches to pull away.
On Saturday, they were beaten in the forward exchanges, lacked a tactical kicking option at flyhalf with scrumhalf Morgan Parra again filling in the role, and the midfield defence of Maxime Mermoz and Aurelien Rougerie was exposed by the hard-running Pacific islanders.
Tonga also blew at least five try-scoring opportunities when they dropped the ball or made poor decisions, while flyhalf Kurt Morath missed four penalty attempts.
"Tonight we had many difficulties," France coach Marc Lievremont admitted.
"I think we knew the way Tonga would play because they do play a high quality game and they need a bonus point."
"I don't think we can be happy with this qualification, however, we are qualified.
"We've had two defeats from four matches. I think it will be the first time a team has qualified with two defeats (in the professional era)."