France's promotion means it is the first time a northern hemisphere side has been in the top three since December 2004, when England occupied third place.
Wales, for their part, remain in sixth spot, marginally behind world champions England, who they face in RBS Six Nations on February 4.
Seventh-placed Ireland have widened the gap between themselves and Argentina Thanks to Saturday's victory against Romania.
Italy's 23-8 win over Fiji is not enough to lift them from 11th in the rankings, but they are now less than one ratings point behind the Fijians, who drop one to 10th.
IRB WORLD RANKINGS: Released on November 28
(1) New Zealand 93.32 Rating Points
(2) South Africa 88.76
(3) France 86.10
(4) Australia 83.93
(5) England 83.27
(6) Wales 82.54
(7) Ireland 80.03
(8) Argentina 78.16
(9) Scotland 73.60
(10) Fiji 73.11