Rugby World Cup 2015: France win warm-up against England

By Ben DirsBBC Sport
Danny Cipriani scores for England
Danny Cipriani's try gave England hope in Paris - will it help him earn him a World Cup berth?
France (15) 25
Try: Huget Con: Michalak Pens: Michalak 5, Spedding
England (6) 20
Try: Cipriani, Joseph Cons: Ford 2 Pens: Ford 2

France dealt England's World Cup plans a blow as for 70 minutes they battered a side widely believed to be close to Stuart Lancaster's favoured XV.

Frederic Michalak's boot saw the hosts lead 15-6 at half-time, George Ford landing two penalties for England.

A converted try from Yoann Huget looked to have killed the game with well over half an hour remaining.

But England came alive and late tries from Danny Cipriani and Jonathan Joseph made it close on the scoreboard.

England have one more warm-up game against Ireland at Twickenham on 5 September before their World Cup opener against Fiji on 18 September.

Head coach Lancaster must announce his final squad by 31 August and will have many sleepless nights before then, with several areas still unresolved.

England's set-piece exposed

Having beaten France 19-14 at Twickenham last weekend, the rematch in Paris was meant to be a chance for centre Luther Burrell to state his World Cup credentials.

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But England's backs barely got their hands on the ball in the first 40 minutes, with referee Jaco Peyper repeatedly penalising the scrum and hooker Tom Youngs enduring a torrid time at the line-out.

England were also second best at the breakdown for much of the first half, which will be of real concern to Lancaster given Australia's prowess in that particular area - the Wallabies, winners of this year's southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, are in Pool A with England, along with Wales.

France reinvigorated

Having finished fourth in this year's Six Nations, Philippe Saint-Andre's side were considered by many to be outsiders for this year's World Cup.

But there were signs during last week's defeat by England that they were beginning to gel and their victory in Paris suggested they at last have a coherent game-plan.

Veteran fly-half Michalak, who kicked 17 points to become France's highest ever points scorer, was exceptional behind a pack going forwards, centre Mathieu Bastareaud blew plenty of holes in England's defences and number eight Louis Picamoles again showed why he promises to be one of the stars of the World Cup.

Yoann Huget celebrates his try for France
Yoann Huget's second-half try proved to be the decisive score in Paris

And when Toulouse wing Huget stepped off his wing, took a sweet inside pass from Michalak and left England full-back Mike Brown for dead before going over for a superb try after 47 minutes, it looked like France might win by a landslide.

England's reasons for cheer

However, the introduction of Saracens hooker Jamie George steadied England's line-out, although the visitors continued to be undermined by poor discipline.

England's forwards did start to make inroads in the final 15 minutes, which allowed England's backs to finally show what they can do.

Sale's Cipriani, considered an outside chance to make Lancaster's final squad, looked dangerous every time he got the ball after replacing Brown at full-back and showed good pace and strength to finish off a rare flowing attack for England's first try.

And centre Joseph, who was quick-witted throughout despite dealing with scraps, finished well when the chance presented itself with the final whistle looming.

Despite their lively last 10 minutes, the overall impression was of an England side with an awful lot of work to do and a coach who does not yet know what his best side is on the eve of a home World Cup.

France: Spedding; Huget, Bastareaud, Fofana, Nakaitaci; Michalak, Tillous-Borde; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani, Pape, Maestri, Chouly, Le Roux, Picamoles.

Replacements: Fickou for Bastareaud (67), Tales for Michalak (69), Kockott for Tillous-Borde (69), Debaty for Ben Arous (56), Kayser for Guirado (56), Atonio for Slimani (63), Flanquart for Pape (67), Nyanga for Picamoles (56).

England: Brown; Nowell, Joseph, Burrell, May; Ford, B Youngs; Marler, T Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Haskell, Robshaw, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Twelvetrees for Burrell (63), Cipriani for May (63), Care for B Youngs (48), M Vunipola for Marler (65), George for T Youngs (48), Wilson for Cole (65), Attwood for Launchbury (53), Easter for Haskell (53).

Att: 80,000

Ref: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).

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