A changed schedule this year means the Opals and Americans are meeting far earlier than usual, although both teams are expected to keep their cards close to their chest as the outcome has little impact on the two teams tipped to meet in the final.
Both sides have already sewn up quarter-final berths and can’t meet again until the gold medal match, regardless of who wins Wednesday’s clash (0415 Thursday AEST).
And the Australians received just the sort of test they were seeking before meeting their old foe against a feisty and physical French outfit.
Veteran Opals Lauren Jackson (19 points, 10 boards) and Penny Taylor (18 points, nine boards) were outstanding, while Hollie Grima came off the bench to add 10 points and eight boards in a strong performance.
No French player managed to reach double figures, with captain Celine Dumerc leading a balanced effort with nine points.
Next up come the Americans, a team Australia is still yet to beat at a world championships.
“It is weird having to play them earlier,” Jackson said.
“It’s probably a good thing as well.
“America are a powerhouse, they have been the best team throughout the years and it’s going to be a really good test to see where we are.
“We want to win no matter what, but we’re also very well aware of the situation.”
The Australians had barely raised a sweat in their opening four matches, but found themselves in a 41-41 tie late in the third term as the French chased a significant upset.
But Jackson imposed herself on the final quarter, scoring eight points in an 11-3 run that allowed the Australians to hold on and maintain their undefeated run to five games.
French coach Pierre Vincent was proud of his team, but said beating the world champions had not been his priority.
“Australia are not a target for us,” he said.
“We want to prepare this young team and the target for us is to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“It’s good for us to play a high-level team with a high level of intensity.
“We’re really satisfied we got as close as we did and it’s good for the future of our team.”
Opals coach Carrie Graf, who again heavily rotated her deep bench, said the bruising battle was ideal.
“It was a hell of a game for us,” she said.
“France are extremely well coached and execute their offence very well and they’re tough as hell on the boards and it was a physical contest and we needed that.
“This was a big game for us between two physical teams.”