Paris - New Zealand's Rugby World Cup final triumph over France was watched by over 15 million people on the TF1 channel on Sunday morning - a record television viewing figure for the year.
The Mediametrie ratings institute said that 15 382 000 people were in front of their TV screens at 10am when the match kicked off in Auckland at the other side of the world.
With France pressing desperately at 7-8 down in the closing minutes trying to win the trophy for the first time, the viewing figure even peaked at 18 million.
Though exceptional for a Sunday morning, the figure was still less than the 18 308 000 who watched the 2007 semi-final between France and England, but that was in Paris with a 9:00 pm kickoff.
The narrow French defeat after a roller-coaster, and at times chaotic campaign, brought fulsome praise from a French press which had previously lambasted the players and especially erratic coach Marc Lievremont.
"Still Standing" was the front page headline in L'Equipe's special World Cup final edition on Monday morning next to giant picture of French captain and man-of-the match at Eden Park, Thierry Dusautoir.
"The French rugby team came close to pulling off a huge exploit in the World Cup final in Auckland," the respected and widely-read sports daily said.
"In producing a match of magnificent intensity, the French XV had the All Blacks running scared right to the end until they finally took over (as world champions) from South Africa."
Awarding the match four stars out of six, L'Equipe said that the French would for a long time regret the points they failed to take and the "laxiste" refereeing of South African Craig Joubert.
"Still, through their courage they justified their presence in the final and all that was missing was a little confidence and precision to have deprived the All Blacks of a title they have been after for 24 years."
The Liberation newspaper said that the final left a bitter taste in the mouth for a French team "in over-drive from the haka onwards and brilliant on the field of play."
"Heads held high," ran the headline in Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui, adding that "the French team finished the competition with panache."
France-Soir called it an "heroic" performance by the French, while La Croix said that "The panache shown by Les Bleus was not enough in the end."
On a darker note the regional L'Ardennais newspaper grumbled that: "The All Blacks were the winners, Les Bleus robbed by the referee," echoing comments made by some French players that Joubert allowed the All Blacks to regularly get away with infringements at the all-important breakdown and especially skipper Richie McCaw.
Praise also came in from a wide spectrum of political parties and it was announced that the French World Cup squad would be received at L'Elysee Palace by President Nicolas Sarkozy when they complete the long flight home on Wednesday. They have been in New Zealand since August 30 with the World Cup having kicked off on September 9.
The French Rugby Federation also announced that the French squad would appear for the public on Wednesday on a podium especially set up in the Place de la Concorde with a giant screen and other rugby activities organised to mark the occasion.