Six Nations 2013: England Outmuscle France to Continue Grand Slam Dream
By Nick Howson | February 24, 2013 5:49 AM EST
England (9) 23
Pens: Farrell 4, Flood 2
France (10) 13
Pens: Parra, Michalak
England strengthened their grip on the Six Nations championship after continuing their unbeaten run by overcoming a dogged France at Twickenham.
The French led at half-time virtue of Wesley Fofana's excellently taken try, but penalties from Owen Farrell and Toby Flood sandwiched Manu Tuilgai's 10th international try.
While France have now lost their opening three Six Nations matches for the first time since 1982, it sustains England's hopes of ending a ten-year wait for a grand slam.
Despite strengthening their Six Nations credentials after back-to-back wins against Scotland and Ireland, leaving them as the only unbeaten side in the championship, coach Stuart Lancaster made three alterations to his England side with Tuilagi returning in the centre and Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley being recalled to the pack.
In contrast, after pre-tournament favourites France's worst ever start to the Six Nations coach Philippe Saint-Andre made eight changes as Francois Trinh-Duc partnered Morgan Parra at half-back for the 20th time while Fofana reverted to centre.
An early penalty exchange between Farrell and Parra was followed by a battle at the set-piece, with Thomas Domingo striking a crucial blow against Dan Cole, as England racked up the penalties early on.
The Frence were working well to disrupt England possession, captain Thierry Dusatoir blocking an attack outside the attacking 22 yard line, before Ben Youngs knocked out after the hosts earned turnover ball.
But England were rapidly going up the gears and almost forced the first try but Tuilagi's break was stopped brilliantly by Parra.
Farrell kicked the resulting penalty, but the visitors quickly went ahead for the first time as Fofana escaped woeful tackles from Lawes and Chris Ashton to mark his return to the centre with the opening try after a blistering 60 yard dash.
Joe Marler earned England another penalty to allow Farrell to reduce the arrears but after Christopher Samson was tackled in the air from a line-out, Parra missed the chance to extend France's lead to four from a penalty.
Another miss at the start of the second half from Parra again denied France an chance to extend their lead and after a subsequent England maul was collapsed, Farrell took advantage to put England back in front.
Their lead was cemented thank to England's first try, which came after a boot in the France ruck saw the ball fall the way of Tuilagi 30 yards out, and the returning Leicester Tigers centre made no mistake.
Replacement Frederic Michalak kicked France to within four points before almost setting Benjamin Fall free after catching a kick over the top of the England defence, but Joe Launchbury intercepted.
However, France began to lose their composure in possessio in the closing quarter, giving away turnover ball on regular occasions and when Toby Flood powered over successive penalties late on it all but ended their challenge.
England: A Goode; C Ashton; M Tuilagi, B Barritt; M Brown; O Farrell; B Youngs; J Marler; D Hartley; D Cole; J Launchbury; G Parling; C Lawes, C Robshaw, T Wood.
Replacements: T Youngs (for D Hartley); D Wilson; M Vunipola (for J Marler); J Haskell (for C Lawes); T Waldrom, D Care (for B Youngs); T Flood (for O Farrell); B Twelvestrees
France: Y Huget, V Clerc, M Bastareaud, W Fofana, B Fall, F Trinh-Duc, M Parra, T Domingo, B Kayser, N Mas, C Samson, Y Maestri, Y Nyanga, T Dusautoir, L Picamoles
Replacements: D Szarzewki (for T Domingo), V Debaty (for B Kayser), L Ducalcon (for N Mas), J Suta (for C Samson), A Claassen (for Y Nyanga ), M Machenaud (for M Parra), F Michalak, (for F Trinh-Duc) F Fritz (for M Bastareaud)
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