Are they back? Well, they narrowly lead Italy 10-8 at half time so France certainly aren't tearing up trees under Guy Noves so far but they have shown just enough verve and French zest to get supporters excited again.
Noves replaced Mathieu Bastareaud with the similarly styled Stade Francais 12 Jonathan Danty while also handing a debut to Fijian-born wing Virimi Vakatawa, who made his name tormenting defences with the French sevens side, and they have turned out to be effective changes.
Italy struck first with a drop goal before Maxime Medard - who has been a menace with the ball in hand throughout - flipped it out wide to Vakatawa, whose mere presence seemed to fix the covering Italian defender.
Italy hit back with a Sergio Parisse try from the back of a maul but then France once again highlighted their desire to return to the swashbuckling ways of old by running a penalty in front of the posts and putting Damien Chouly over in the corner.
It's only one half old, but this is already close to being the most enjoyable France v Italy clash we've seen.