Tuesday 23 January 2018

New caps impress in England victory

England 19-14 France

France's Morgan Parra can't prevent Anthony Watson from scoring England's first try at Twickenham last night
France's Morgan Parra can't prevent Anthony Watson from scoring England's first try at Twickenham last night
England's Billy Twelvetrees tangles with France's Scott Spedding
France's Alexandre Dumoulin tackles England's Jonny May

Duncan Bech

Sam Burgess and Henry Slade played themselves into World Cup contention as England marked their 100th meeting with Ireland's World Cup Pool opponents France with an edgy victory at Twickenham.

The tries were supplied by Anthony Watson and Jonny May, but with the dazzling wings certainties to be present at the global showpiece on home soil, all eyes were on the uncapped centre pairing. Burgess produced a couple of wince-inducing hits, carried well and looked comfortable in the Test arena just 10 months after completing his move from rugby league.

The only stain on his performance was a first-half yellow card that exposed his lack of union nous as he tugged back Morgan Parra after the France scrum-half had taken a quick-tap penalty. Slade was also impressive, showing the handling and vision that have been his calling card at club level, and the subtlety of his skill set complimented the physical prowess of Burgess.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has stated it is highly unlikely both centres will be selected in his final 31-man World Cup squad and on this evidence it would be a tough call to include one at the expense of the other and both will be looked at again.

England sparkled across the backline, Watson and May injecting pace and finishing their chances and full-back Alex Goode surely guaranteed his place with a creative display that saw him repeatedly operate at first receiver. Number eight Ben Morgan lasted until half-time in his first appearance since breaking his leg in January and will surely be given another outing in the return match in Paris next Saturday, but hooker Rob Webber and flanker Calum Clark failed to advance their claims.

Kieran Brookes left the field with a wrist injury after taking a blow that could remove him from World Cup contention.

England had barely touched the ball inside the opening 10 minutes but breached the whitewash with their first meaningful attack, as Slade gave Watson a half-chance and the Bath wing accepted by showing a rapid turn of pace to round Dulin.

Seven minutes later Watson scored his second after Burgess, Owen Farrell and May combined to create space that the 21-year-old turned into a try after a clever jink. Burgess flattened Alexandre Dumoulin with a wince-inducing tackle, but France continued their attack with Parra landing two penalties that sandwiched a barnstorming run by number eight Luis Picamoles.

Slade was lucky to escape a yellow card for a tackle on Parra, but Burgess was sent to the sin-bin in the 36th minute for his tug. James Haskell emerged instead of Morgan for a second half, but by the 46th minute England has scored their third try with Slade instrumental in setting up May. Clark was sent to the sin-bin for grabbing Guilhem Guirado around the neck and England were let off when prop Uini Atonio dropped the ball with the line at his mercy.

Fate was not with the World Cup hosts, however, as Brookes departed just moments before Fulgence Ouedraogo touched down at the end of a line out drive that scattered white shirts. Twickenham was silent as France launched a late assault, but James Haskell secured a penalty and the final whistle was blown.

Sunday Indo Sport

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