France 22 England 24: C'est magnifique! Lancaster's men stun Les Bleus in epic Paris win
17:43 GMT, 11 March 2012
England secured a remarkable RBS Six Nations victory over France in Paris that could have profound implications on the future direction of the national team.
Tries from Manu Tuilagi and Ben Foden put England 14-3 ahead and when Tom Croft scored late on they led 24-15 with just five minutes remaining.
Wesley Fofana's converted try in the corner brought France storming back into the game but Francois Trinh-Duc's late drop-goal attempt fell short.
Over the line: Ben Foden scores England's second try of the match at the Stade de France
France: Tries: Fofana. Cons: Parra. Pens: Beauxis 3, Dupuy, Parra.
France: Poitrenaud, Clerc, Rougerie, Fofana, Malzieu, Beauxis, Dupuy, Poux, Szarzewski, Mas, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Harinordoquy.
Replacements: Trinh-Duc for Beauxis (73), Parra for Dupuy (49), Debaty for Poux (49), Servat for Szarzewski (49), Picamoles for Bonnaire (66).
Not used: Nallet, Mermoz.
England: Tries: Tuilagi, Foden, Croft. Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell.
England: Foden, Ashton, Tuilagi, Barritt, Sharples, Farrell, Dickson, Corbisiero, Hartley, Cole, Botha, Parling, Croft, Robshaw, Morgan, Dowson.
Replacements: Youngs for Dickson (73), Stevens for Cole (68), Palmer for Botha (55), Dowson for Morgan (62), Webber for Dowson (74).
Not used: Hodgson, Brown.
Sin Bin: Sharples (53).
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).
England, mathematically at least, will
head into the final weekend with a shot at the title and Stuart
Lancaster's bid to become the next full-time coach is building momentum.
Never before have England won all
three away fixtures in the same championship season and today's
remarkable triumph lifts Lancaster's men up to fourth in the world.
If they can stay there for the rest of
the year – admittedly a tough ask given the fixtures that lie ahead –
England will be a top seed at their home World Cup in 2015.
The expectation is that the Rugby
Football Union want a coach with top-level international experience to
lead England into the tournament but Jake White's withdrawal appears to
leave them with a choice between Lancaster and Nick Mallett.
Lancaster said in the week that he has
enough vision and self-belief to bridge the experience gap and become
Martin Johnson's permanent successor.
Nothing will have hammered his message home more profoundly to RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie than this away win in Paris.
Wales' superior points difference
means they have a strong grip on the championship crown but if France
were to wreck their Grand Slam party next weekend then England,
mathematically at least, will be going for the title against Ireland.
All smiles: England celebrate taking the lead in Paris
Forcing through: Manu Tuilagi evades a tackle by Aurelien Rougerie to score the opening try for England
Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples was
awarded his first Test start after David Strettle was ruled out on the
eve of the match with a chest injury, while France coach Philippe
Saint-Andre gave fly-half Lionel Beauxis and scrum-half Julien Dupuy
their first Test starts since 2009.
Beauxis sliced a drop-goal attempt
wide after some strong approach play from his forwards and Dupuy missed a
penalty before flanker Julien Bonnaire brushed aside tackles from Dan
Cole and Sharples before being dragged down just short.
Despite those French opportunities,
England were the better side for the opening half-hour and scored two
scintillating tries to take control of the match.
Hands up: England's Mouritz Botha tries to stop Julien Dupuy's kick
Fall guy: Ben Morgan is tackled by France's Aurelien Rougerie (L) and Thierry Dusautoir (R)
Chris Ashton produced a shuddering
tackle on hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and Owen Farrell scooped up the
loose ball and Lee Dickson sent Tuilagi thundering away to beat Aurelien
Rougerie and score in the corner.
After Farrell converted, Beauxis
landed a long-range penalty to get France on the board but England hit
them again with a second try.
No way through: Julien Malzieu (C) fails to break through for France
Number eight Ben Morgan beat two
defenders on a rampaging run before fending off Imanol Harinordoquy and
slipping a deft offload to Ben Foden, who dragged Vincent Clerc with him
over the line.
Farrell's conversion was successful
but the Saracens fly-half then hit the post from bang in front, failing
to reward a strong effort from an England pack.
Leading the way: England captain Chris Robshaw drives through as Owen Farrell looks on
Beauxis appeared to have wasted an
attacking opportunity when he lumped another high ball towards Foden,
who claimed the mark just before being taken out by Rougerie.
Croft and Ashton took exception to the
tackle, prompting a shoving match with Rougerie which saw France
awarded a penalty, which Dupuy kicked.
It was careless from England, who then conceded two more before the interval as their lead was cut to 14-9.
Magic moment: Croft's score in the 70th minute – converted by Farrell – was enough to seal victory
Farrell extended England's advantage
after Fofana was penalised for a deliberate knock-on, defying the jeers
to land a nerveless kick from 40 metres out.
France began to ring the changes with
hooker William Servat and prop Vincent Debaty sent on as well as Morgan
Parra at scrum half.
England conceded another penalty for
pulling down a maul, which Beauxis missed, before Sharples was sent to
the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.
Clement Poitrenaud sent Fofana
crashing into the England 22 where he was half-stopped by Foden's tackle
before Cole joined in and forced the French centre to knock on.
Three amigos: England's try scorers celebrate after the victory at the Stade de France
Although England saw out the sin-bin
without further damage, France continued to chip away at their lead with
two more penalties from Beauxis.
Suddenly the lead was down to two
points. England had to respond and they did through Croft, who cut
between Rougerie and Harinordoquy before rounding Poitrenaud to score.
But there was still time for late
drama. From a strong five-metre scrum, Fofana attacked the blindside and
beat Sharples to score in the same corner as Tuilagi.
With five minutes left the match was
again in the balance but England clung on as Trinh-Duc's drop goal
attempt lacked the legs to reach its target.
Give him the job! One England fan makes a public declaration on Lancaster
Just the job: Victory in Paris could well earn Lancaster the England role on a full-time basis