Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Confident France beat disappointing England

AFP, MARSEILLE, France

England's Tom Rees, behind, looks on as Jonny Wilkinson prepares to kick a penalty during their match against France in Marseille, France, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

France recorded their second victory over England in two weeks on Saturday, winning 22-9 and underlining their credentials as real World Cup contenders.

Only Argentina, in 2004, have beaten the French in Marseille's Stade Velodrome, and England, having been beaten 21-15 at Twickenham last week, never threatened a confident-looking France team that mixed staunch defense with some patient street-wise rugby.

"Tonight we had a powerful scrum which put the English under pressure," French coach Bernard Laporte said. "That's a positive point. It was vital to win this game because to launch the World Cup in France we couldn't lose. I'm satisfied with the performance."

England coach Brian Ashton said his side were disappointing.

"The big disappointment is that the basics of our game that were there against Wales and France during the past two weeks let us down tonight," he said. "You don't win games over here if you don't get the fundamentals right. We should have scored a try in the first 10 minutes, but we didn't, and then we lost field position and couldn't regain it."

There was no quarter given in a bruising encounter in which many of the 30 players on display, as well as all the 14 replacements used, were battling to nail down a World Cup starting place in their respective teams.

The killer blow came when outstanding France center Yannick Jauzion crashed over for a try early in the second-half while England lock Simon Shaw was in the sin-bin, allied with 14 points from the boot of Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

England's Johnny Wilkinson scored three penalties in reply and was first on the scoreboard with a penalty in the 11th minute after Josh Lewsey ran Christophe Dominci into trouble.

Elissalde equalled within a minute after a needless error by Shaun Perry at the base of the scrum.

Both teams' kickers then missed penalty efforts but Elissalde nailed his third and fourth attempts at goal to make it 9-3 after poor England discipline around the ruck.

It went from bad to worse on the stroke of half-time after Simon Shaw was yellow-carded for a high swinging arm tackle on Damien Traille, and Elissalde kicked the penalty to make it 12-3 at the break.

England captain Phil Vickery was carried off after being caught in the wrong place in Shaw's rash tackle and was replaced by Lee Mears.

Wilkinson was on target immediately after the restart as both teams struggled to build up any momentum as defense continued to come to the fore.

Yannick Nyanga, prominent in early exchanges alongside fellow flanker Thierry Dusautoir, then spilled the ball over the English line after finally splitting the tight defense and beating Mark Cueto's tackle.

From the resulting five-meter scrum, Jauzion crashed through an attempted tackle by Andy Farrell and Perry for a try after a delightful drop-off by Frederic Michalak.

France began to turn the screw, but Elissalde spurned two more penalty efforts and Imanol Harinordoquy let a certain try go begging after ignoring an unmarked Clement Poitrenaud on his outside.

South Africa-bound Michalak notched up a penalty to make the final score 22-9, a satisfying victory for the home side and notably lock Fabien Pelous, winning his 112th cap to become the most-capped French player of all time.

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