Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith said after the 55-3 quarterfinal win over Wales, "We've said all along that we've got a lot of ground to make up. We got some hidings last year, and a lot is at stake.
"France are extremely efficient in defence, and they have got some good players so it's going to be a battle."
Having been given a physical lesson by Wales in their pool game, the New Zealanders knew where they would be on trial on Saturday.
But Smith felt the Black Ferns' physicality was better.
"Nothing happens without physicality, and I liked our attacking intent.
"There was a lot at stake for the forwards, and we showed that in some of the set pieces.
"There were still things that didn't quite function today, but that was probably the best we have played all year. Some of the rugby we played was champagne rugby," he said.
Smith added that he didn't think New Zealand's success as the most successful side in women's World Cup rugby counted for anything going into the semifinal.
"I don't think history gives you an edge. I've told the girls about the story of 2007 when we [the All Blacks] beat France 61-10 in Wellington, and four months later they beat us in the quarterfinal of a World Cup."
Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon, who played her first game of the tournament, said she had forgotten what it was like to play Test match rugby.
"We put a huge focus on our set pieces. I think it's fair to say that Wales us in the first game. So, I think we did very well in that space and increasing at the right speed. We made sure that when we came together in the scrum, it was with killer mentality."
Simon knows the semifinal will be a different challenge.
"The last time we met France, it wasn't pretty. We've seen they've got an aggressive defence, so it's something we will need to work on with our game plan.
"It will be an aggressive game again. I think we've made huge strides. We are prepared."
Wing Portia Woodman, who became the leading try-scorer in Rugby World Cup history with her two tries against Wales, said, "France are a big side. Their defence is a blue line right across [the field], and not a lot gets through.
"Up front, they are really strong, but I think our girls showed they have that capacity today. With our backline, I trust our skills and I trust our moves, but it is going to be a really hard battle."