England get World Cup warm-ups underway with narrow win over France
Last Updated: 16/08/15 11:19am
England kicked off their World Cup preparations with a 19-14 win over France at Twickenham on Saturday.
England notched up the win win three tries, with two first-half efforts coming from Man of the Match Anthony Watson before Jonny May notched what proved to be the match-winner early in the second half.
There was plenty for Stuart Lancaster's list of positives, with Henry Slade and Alex Goode both showcasing their class in front of the Twickenham faithful.
However it was a mixed first cap for Bath's Sam Burgess, who tackled well during the game but earned a yellow card for foul play late in the first half. The debut of Calum Clark was equally tarnished by a period in the sin bin.
With this their first game since the Six Nations, England were not the same side that beat France in a 90-point thriller at the self-same Twickenham in March, but showed glimpses of the same attacking ethos at times.
France were full of enterprise against the old enemy, with Louis Picamoles and Morgan Parra both leading well for the visitors.
France started the better of the two teams, and their dominance was rewarded with a Morgan Parra penalty in the 7th minute, but they relinquished the lead shortly thereafter when England were awarded a penalty and opted for the corner rather than a shot at goal.
Their decision was vindicated when Morgan set up a ruck from the lineout, from which the ball was recycled quickly and sent to Henry Slade. Slade shipped it to Watson who stepped his opposite number from a standstill and ran around him for the opening try of the game.
Then with barely 17 minutes on the clock May ghosted around the French defence before offloading to Watson for his second try to make it 12-3.
France came back though, through the boot of Parra who added two further penalties to make it a three-point game with eight minutes remaining in the half.
If England's momentum had been slowed by the scores it was all but halted by the yellow card shown to Burgess. When France took a quick tap from a penalty Burgess held the scrum-half back right in front of the referee and was given ten minutes in the bin.
For all his defensive plaudits earned from the first half, he undid them with a moment of silliness - especially given France were in their own half at the time.
Burgess' time off the field was split by the half-time break, as the two teams went into the sheds with England holding onto a 12-9 lead.
The extra man did France no favours at the start of the second half. Before Burgess had returned to the fray Alex Goode chipped the ball perfectly into the French corner, where May was able to run onto it superbly for the opening try of the second period.
The conversion from Farrell was successful, giving England a comfortable lead, before Clark became the second debutant to spend ten minutes in the bin after the referee pulled him up for dangerous play at a ruck.
France were close to scoring immediately from the lineout that followed the penalty but the English defence held firm and eventually were awarded a penalty.
There was no such luck the second time as France kicked for the corner when they got a penalty of their own, and powered over easily from the maul. Flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo with the try, but replacement scrum-half Rory Kockott failed with the conversion.
May was almost in for his second when he was involved in a footrace with a French defender as the ball bobbled in France’s in-goal area, but the officials spotted a foot in touch leading up to the play.
Farrell was then given a chance to kick for poles but was asked instead to kick for the corner. Replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie overthrew, forcing England to defend hard once more.
Cowan-Dickie's throwing at the end of the game would not have earned him a place in the World Cup squad, but he and his England colleagues were able to keep the French away from the tryline for the remainder of the game as they ran out 19-14 winners.