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BBC Sport's Ian Robertson
"It was hard to believe the transformation in England's performance"
 real 14k

England coach Clive Woodward
"The second-half was fantastic"
 real 14k

England captain Martin Johnson
"The score was a little too much in our favour"
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England's kicker Jonny Wilkinson
"There was an element of professionalism in our performance"
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England's Lawrence Dallaglio
"The execution in the first half was poor"
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banner Saturday, 7 April, 2001, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
England fight back to bury French
France's Christophe Dominici takes on Austin Healey
France's Christophe Dominici takes on Austin Healey
England 48-19 France

Merciless England kept their Grand Slam bandwagon on track - but only after they were given a scare by a rejuvenated France side.

Tries from Will Greenwood, Richard Hill, Iain Balshaw, Phil Greening, Mike Catt and Matt Perry gave Clive Woodward's team a fourth straight championship win.

After trailing at half-time, England produced a brilliant second-half display to claim a record win over the Gallic visitors.

Jonny Wilkinson kicks his way into the record books
Jonny Wilkinson kicks his way into the record books
It was a day for landmarks, as fly-half Jonny Wilkinson became England's all-time highest point-scorer, his six conversions and two penalties taking him past Rob Andrew's previous best mark of 396 points.

France took the game to England early on - but the power of the English pack and the pace of their back line ultimately steam-rollered the visitors after the break.

Victory over Ireland next autumn, in a match that was delayed by the foot-and-mouth crisis, will give England the title - along with the Grand Slam they so desperately covet.

France fly out of blocks

France had been written off by many pundits after defeats by Ireland and Wales.

But they re-discovered their best form in a first half in which they out-scored England 16-13.

Ben Cohen congratulates Will Greenwood on his opening try
Ben Cohen congratulates Will Greenwood on his opening try
Indeed, but for two marginal decisions by the video referee, the French might have made more of a game of it.

The Twickenham crowd were treated to a superb clash between the teams that have dominated European rugby for more than a decade.

In the first three matches of the championship England had built up a reputation for thrilling back play, as they appeared to take the European game to new heights.

But it was the French runners who caught the eye in the first half.

Stephane Glas, Philippe Bernat-Salles and the inspirational Christophe Dominici turned on the style with a thrilling exhibition of running rugby.

England's typically swaggering start was nullified by the masters of the counter-attack.

Greenwood exploited some wide open spaces in midfield to finish off a crisp handling move after just six minutes for his sixth try of this Six Nations.

Philippe Bernat-Salles celebrates France's only try
Philippe Bernat-Salles celebrates France's only try
But France have their own prolific scorer - and flying wing Bernat-Salles matched Greenwood's try-per-game efforts when he sprinted over in the right-hand corner, with the England defence at full stretch.

Before England could regroup, Gerald Merceron hammered home the advantage, three penalties from the fly-half taking the visitors 16-10 ahead.

Dominici so nearly grabbed a second try for the French with a scintillating run down the left - but his touch-down was ruled out by the video ref for straying into touch.

In first-half injury time Wilkinson landed a penalty to take him past Andrew's record and cut the deficit to three points.

Second-half surge

England re-appeared after half-time in determined mood - and the new spirit soon paid dividends, with a superb solo try from Hill.

The Saracens flanker - one of the most under-rated players in the championship - collected a pass from Austin Healey 30 yards and out-sprinted the covering defence before diving over the line.

England scrum-half Matt Dawson launches a break
England scrum-half Matt Dawson launches a break
Merceron reduced England's lead with a drop-goal - but Balshaw's smart change of pace brought him a fifth try of the campaign and put the hosts eight points ahead.

Still France came back, with yet another Dominici burst down the left.

This time Xavier Garbajosa took it on and plunged the ball over the line under pressure from Matt Dawson's excellent last-gasp tackle.

But again the video referee was asked to intervene - and again he refused to give the try.

With France visibly tiring in the face of the English onslaught, the floodgates now opened.

A scything break from England substitute Jason Robinson set up hooker Phil Greening for another score, before Healey's impudent chip over the top was finished off by Mike Catt.

Balshaw's replacement Matt Perry then finished the rout with a late try.

All that is left for England now is that belated trip to Dublin, where they face a mouth-watering match-up with an Irish team that is also defending a 100% record.


England: I Balshaw (Bath); A Healey (Leicester), W Greenwood (Harlequins), M Catt (Bath), B Cohen (Northampton); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), P Greening (Wasps), J White (Saracens), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), S Borthwick (Bath), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester), L Dallaglio (Wasps).

Replacements: D West (Leicester), D Flatman (Saracens), J Worsley (Wasps), M Corry (Leicester), K Bracken (Saracens), M Perry (Bath), J Robinson (Sale).

France: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); P Bernat-Salles (Biarritz), X Garbajosa (Toulouse), S Glas (Bourgoin), C Dominici (Stade Francais); G Merceron (Montferrand), F Galthie (Colomiers); S Marconnet (Stade Francais), R Ibanez (Castres), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), L Nallet (Bourgoin), A Benazzi (Agen), C Milheres (Biarritz), O Magne (Montferrand), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt).

Replacements: F Landreau (Stade Francais), A Galasso (Montferrand), D Auradou (Stade Francais), T Lievremont (Biarritz), P Carbonneau (Pau), D Skrela (Colomiers), T Lombard (Stade Francais).

Referee: Tappe Henning (South Africa).

Touch judges: David McHugh (Ireland) and Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).

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