A near-perfect opening quarter proved to be enough for England to hold off a gallant second-half effort from France and secure Shaun Wane’s first win as national coach.
Wane’s side for the Test in Perpignan included eight debutants, with an obvious glance towards next year’s World Cup and a chance for some players to show they can force their way into his thinking. He will have been impressed with what he saw in the opening quarter, with England motoring along at a point a minute against Laurent Frayssinous’ side, who they will meet in the group stage of the tournament in 2022.
Tries from Liam Farrell, Tom Davies, Tommy Makinson and the captain, John Bateman, gave the visitors a commanding 20-0 lead, with France struggling to muster a response. But the second half was a much different story, as England toiled in the Perpignan heat and the hosts finally found their feet. They could only score twice courtesy of Corentin Le Cam and Justin Sangaré, but it was no less than their efforts deserved.
Wane will have no doubt been frustrated with how England’s performance level dipped after that sterling opening 20 minutes, but when you consider this was only the second time in more than 600 days they have taken to the field, it is perhaps to be expected. For as long as British rugby constantly devalues the international game, the more England will fail to fulfil their potential.
Davies’ try was the pick of the opening four, a remarkable one-handed finish that was befitting of the international stage. Wonderful attacking play led by the debutant Jordan Abdull and the half-back Jonny Lomax then led to tries for Makinson and Bateman. But as half-time approached, it was France who were beginning to move into the ascendancy.
They were duly rewarded after the restart when Le Cam charged over the line, and had two further tries not been disallowed there could have been a nervous finish in store for England. Instead they weathered the storm and finally put the result beyond doubt when Makinson claimed his second try, and while Sangaré provided another consolation for France, the visitors rounded off the scoring with Bateman’s second of the afternoon.