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Twickenham, London - 11 March, 2007
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ALL THE ACTION (all times GMT)

By Charlie Henderson

  • Join the post-match debate on Interactive by pressing the red button at 1700 GMT.

    "Brian Ashton, please work with this combination - give them a chance to develop. The worst we could do is make wholesale changes for the game against Wales next weekend."
    Phil Lowney, Bristol

    "This team, while not getting carried away, is going to get better. Once the forwards are sorted they will be going stronger and faster."
    Jeremy Guscott, BBC Sport TV pundit

    "Shane Geraghty was a fantastic impact for England and I don't know who they're going to pick at 10 next week."Austin Healy, BBC Sport TV pundit

    "The forwards were immense. They realised if they could dominate up front the French were tired and couldn't handle the physical battering. That created space in open play, particularly for David Strettle and Jason Robinson who always gained momentum on limited opportunities. An all round good performance and a tremendous day."
    Matt Dawson, BBC Radio Five Live pundit

    1645: FULL-TIME England 26-18 France
    Substitute Shaun Perry scoops a kick into touch and England have beaten France for the first time since the last World Cup after a wonderful game. It is a three-way tie at the top of the table with England, France and Ireland level on six points. France cannot now land the Grand Slam, but they will be going for the Championship next weekend along with England and Ireland. Italy could also still win it.
    Next Saturday's games:

  • Italy v Ireland (1330 GMT)
  • France v Scotland (1530 GMT)
  • Wales v England (1730 GMT)

    1644: France are going left and right but not forward, which is what they want and what they need. Time is almost up.

    1643: "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" echoes round the ground and for once it does not sound like a funereal dirge. It is almost joyous, almost.

    1642: Mike Catt is afforded a standing ovation as he comes off. Tom Rees is named RBS Six Nations Man of the Match by Brian Moore.

    1641: France are inching towards the 22. Not any more. They cough up the ball.

    1639: England's rush defence does a good job and France can find no way through, time and time again. Lionel Beauxis opts for the boot but his kick is aimless and straight at substitute Mathew Tait. Confidence is coursing through this England team. The Newcastle man races forward from his own 22 to relieve the pressure.

    1637: Time is running out for France and the Grand Slam is slipping from their grasp. They are going to have to throw everything at England, if they have anything left in the tank to throw.

    1635: TRY & CONVERSION England 26-18 France
    England score their second try of the game after Shane Geraghty returns a clearing kick from Dimitri Yachvili, with interest... and some. A shimmy and show of the hips, he is through two tackles and accelerates towards the line. The tackle's coming, but the support is there. He opts to go left and Mike Tindall goes over under the posts. Geraghty adds the two points.

    1633: France's turn to get a shunt on having claimed a lineout. But when they turn to the backs, Vincent Clerc gifts a penalty after holding on in the tackle on the 22. Well played Mike Tindall.

    1632: There are 10 minutes left on the clock.

    1631: England's forwards roll forward from halfway and the French pack are on the retreat. A let off for the visitors as England are penalised.

    1629: PENALTY England 19-18 France
    England are back in front and Shane Geraghty slots a simple kick from below the posts for his first international points after France were caught offside. Deserved reward for excellent English play.

    1627: Wonderful hands on the left by Shane Geraghty and Tom Palmer and Joe Worsley is free before being hauled down by Serge Betsen. Switch to the right and there goes David Strettle. England are ramping up the pressure.

    1625: After a little lull England are clicking through the gears again. Mike Catt switches play to the right with a sweeping pass. Mike Tindall picks up a Shane Geraghty pass on the bounce but cannot get on the end of his own kick ahead.

    1623: Jason Robinson puts the afterburners on, jinking and jiving through a crowd of French players before being scragged in the visiting 22.

    1621: The blond-haired Shane Geraghty's confident. What does he do with the ball when he first gets his hands on it? Throws a nice dummy before offloading out of the tackle with his second serious involvement in international rugby.

    1620: That dead leg, his right, has bought an end to Toby Flood's day. London Irish stand-off Shane Geraghty comes on to make his debut alongside club team-mate Mike Catt.

    1619: PENALTY England 16-18 France
    Mike Tindall infringes at a ruck and France go ahead with another penalty from the left-footed Dimitri Yachvili, his third, this time wide on the right.

    1618: Christophe Dominici cuts in on the scissors from the left and France come charging into England's 22.

    1617: That Toby Flood try has stung the French who have upped their game.

    1615: France drop the ball on the left and David Strettle gathers for a race to the line but play is called back for an earlier infringement by England, a late tackle from Harry Ellis on Dimitri Yachvili.

    1613: PENALTY England 16-15 France
    Tom Rees fails to roll away from the tackle and France have a chance to cut the deficit. Dimitri Yachvili has scored 53 of France's 73 points in the last three matches against England and makes it six in this game from wide on the left.

    1611: Mike Catt is lined up by Serge Betsen but lives to see another day. In fact, the fearless French flanker comes off the worse. The magic sponge sorts him out. Imanol Harinordoquy replaces Sebastien Chabal.

    1609: TRY & CONVERSION England 16-12 France
    England take the lead for the first time with a Toby Flood try. Having been on the retreat, Mike Catt manufactures the touch down with a fine, arcing break around the outstretched hand of Raphael Ibanez, after being freed by Harry Ellis, and Flood runs over on the left before adding the extras.

    1608: Excellent defence from the blue-shirted visitors which gives rise to a rendition of "Allez Les Bleus" as England are pushed back to the 22.

    1607: England steal French lineout ball and are rumbling towards the try line. Very slow ball before Tom Rees has a dart. He is held.

    1606: A slight break after a breathless yet haphazard start to the second half before Lionel Beauxis launches a howitzer of a drop-out which gives England the chance to fashion a counter-attack.

    1605: No sign of trouble for Toby Flood there as he powers a kick upfield. It goes dead and will be a drop-out for the French.

    1602: And news of the England number 10. Toby Flood has a slight dead leg but will start the second half.

    1601: Here we go again. Lionel Beauxis is on for David Skrela at stand-off for France.

    "Mike Catt and Toby Flood are creating the holes for England and I want to see the ball in their hands in the second half."
    Matt Dawson, BBC Radio Five Live pundit

    "It took Mike Catt a long time to get into the game and he made a few mistakes early doors, which could be the emotion of the occasion. He will look for space in the second half and he is the man who could break them down."
    Austin Healy, BBC Sport TV pundit

    "We have been very opportunistic but are not creating phases and the English are causing problems. France should play territory a bit more and take the opportunity when it's there."
    Thomas Castaignede, former France international, BBC Sport TV

    "My flat mates are watching the rugby downstairs, my best mate is listening in the car driving back to Southampton, and I am reading the scores on the BBC website when I should be writing a History essay. Bloody exciting match!"
    Hannah Green, Southampton

    "Once the odd mistakes are cut out in the second half England will pose more questions for France."
    Jeremy Guscott, BBC Sport TV pundit

    "Bernard Laporte will be asking his team to keep the ball longer than they are during half-time and you would expect England to get tired because they are very fierce in the contact area."
    Philippe Saint-Andre, former France international, BBC Sport TV

    "That's the best performance for a couple of years from England. They have thrown a bit more caution to the wind than I expected. They look dangerous on the counter-attack and the pack have been incredible, attacking France over the ball and around the fringes."
    Matt Dawson, BBC Radio Five Live pundit

    1548: HALF-TIME England 9-12 France
    That is the break. There have been errors, but it has been a very entertaining half of rugby.

    1547: Call an ambulance because that was a hospital pass! Mike Catt has to reach high for the ball and opens his body up to a thumping tackle from Yannick Jauzion. But the England skipper holds on to the ball. A great effort and England maintain possession and c

    1545: Now France's second English-based player holds on to the ball too long. Raphael Ibanez is the culprit on halfway and England have a chance to level the scores. Toby Flood's effort, from inside his own half, falls short.

    1543: PENALTY England 9-12 France
    Straight up the other end and a penalty for England as Sebastien Chabal holds on to the ball from the re-start after a tackle from Mike Tindall. Cue Toby Flood.

    1542: PENALTY England 6-12 France
    David Skrela may have not missed a pot-shot today, but France call on Dimitri Yachvili for this one.

    1541: Yannick Jauzion is squeezing and squirming his way through tackles in the England 22 after initially slipping away from Mike Tindall. The Frenchman wins a penalty as George Chuter infringes after the big centre is eventually felled.

    1538: PENALTY England 6-9 France
    Never mind. England were playing the advantage. Toby Flood converts a penalty from in front of the posts after a French offside.

    1537: Suicidal play from France. A penalty in their own 22 and they opt for a cross kick! It goes straight to David Strettle and England are bearing down on the French line. They work through the phases but eventually Mike Tindall's grubber to the corner goes out.

    1536:This is open and entertaining stuff. Another knock-on, this time from the men in blue when they are in a good position on halfway. Yannick Jauzion pops the ball off to Lionel Nallet but it goes to ground.

    1534: Harry Ellis scorches down the touchline. He is stopped in his tracks by a firm Dimitri Yachvili tackle but they maintain possession. Working the ball from left to right they probe for an opening, but then another knock-on, this time from Ellis.

    1533: The ball squirts out to Yannick Jauzion on the touchline and the big centre is away. On no he isn't. Dimitri Yachvili had passed off the ground and it is an English penalty. From wide, on the wrong side, Toby Flood drags his penalty attempt wide.

    1531: Mike Catt and Toby Flood swap roles in the back division as England make something out of slow ball. Josh Lewsey bursts and there is a scissors with David Strettle before yet another knock-on in contact.

    1529: PENALTY England 3-9 France
    France open up a nice little gap on the scoreboard after Tom Rees gives away a needless penalty at close quarters to mar an otherwise very good opening quarter from the Wasps flanker. David Skrela slots.

    1527: That is terrible, but Josh Lewsey can afford to smile. The full-back takes a quick lineout to himself and then launches a horrendous, long, cross-field pass which drifts forward and invitingly towards David Marty. Fortunately from a home perspective the French centre drops the ball.

    1525: England are on the front foot. David Strettle bursts forward off his wing. Toby Flood passes out of the tackle, nice. Aaargh. There's another knock-on, but there is clear promise in their play.

    1522: BBC summariser Brian Moore is chuntering on like either Waldorf or Statler over scrummaging. Some of the French deserve a "good shoeing" according to the master of the cross-channel wind up.

    1521: PENALTY England 3-6 France
    France still leave the English 22 with points after that sortie. Over-zealous rucking from Martin Corry and David Skrela steps up to edge the French in front again.

    1519: It is tit-for-tat here. France now pile forward and stretch the English defence after Dimitri Yachvili takes a quick tap and go on halfway. Raphael Ibanez knocks on when he gets a scent of the line. Poor from the visiting skipper. An escape for England.

    1518: A crescendo of noise as Josh Lewsey breaks. He ignores the pass to David Strettle outside and goes inside. It's a bit of a cul-de-sac that way. And then up pops Serge Betsen to slow things down and France clear.

    1516: They won the first lineout against the throw and now England win the first scrum against the head.

    1515: A knock-on from Mike Catt in midfield as England look to build some possession and a scrum to France.

    1514: David Skrela is alright to continue and gets the game re-started.

    1513: PENALTY England 3-3 France Never mind the treatment, it's a penalty to England as well. Toby Flood only has a Premiership kick success rate of 63% this season. Today though it is 100%... so far. He makes no mistake with his first effort on the posts.

    1512: France fly-half David Skrela intercepts a Mike Catt pass but then gets caught in a tackle by Tom Palmer. Ouch! His ankle is caught under the big lock's leg and he goes down screaming in agony like an extra from Platoon.

    1511: Encouraging signs from England. Good hands notably from Nick Easter, Tom Rees and Toby Flood, before bosh, Raphael Ibanez lines up Jason Robinson on the touchline.

    1510: The turnover gives France a chance to turn on the style. Nice movement, nice hands, but they are crowded out and England get the scrum on their own 22.

    1509: That's the sort of "heads up" rugby Brian Ashton wanted. Toby Flood chips over the French defence in midfield and gathers. However, England's move soon breaks down.

    1507: PENALTY England 0-3 France
    A first chance for points as prop Tim Payne holds on in the tackle after being tackled by the fearsome Serge Betsen. David Skrela makes no mistake from distance despite some jeers and whistles from the crowd.

    1506: France lose the first lineout of the afternoon on their throw, but England fail to capitalise after good work from Tom Palmer. A note on the Wasps lock. In four starts for England he has partnered four different players in the second row. Does that hint at muddled thinking?

    1505: And we're off, with England stand-off Toby Flood getting things started with a switch of play which goes straight to the French. Does that hint at shirking confrontation?

    PRE-MATCH BUILD UP (all times GMT)

    1500: Anthem time. La Marseillaise really is a cracker. It is like champagne bubbling in a glass. God Save the Queen. Sung with gusto but it's more like a warm pint of ale. Mike Catt looks very emotional and gives his ear a little tug as the camera pans along the line. It's a superstition.

    1459: And here come the hosts behind new skipper Mike Catt. The 35-year-old is the fourth oldest England captain behind Eric Evans (1958), Dorian West (2003) and Sam Tucker (1931).

    1457: Here come France.

    1456: Bums on seats time at Twickenham. The bars are emptying, the ground is full and the French players, lined up behind captain and Wasps hooker Raphael Ibanez, are in the tunnel.

    1455: Have England got a chance? Well, some late support for them there to get us in the mood - or at least prove that hope springs eternal around the world. Thanks for all the e-mails form Belarus, Bolivia and beyond. On with the action.

    "It's a miserable wet day for all the ex-pats in Vancouver so we're hoping for England to provide some sunshine for us. It will be a hard fought battle and England will win by three."
    Steve Bennett, Vancouver, Canada

    "I'm sitting in my college dorm room waiting for the game to start. My dad and I are texting back and forth. He is in Massachusetts and I'm in Pennsylvania. England may have a young squad but they have pulled off some bigger miracles. England by seven."
    Chris Cole, Gettysburg, PA

    "This will be the match of the season. It'll come down to the wire with England prevailing. There's a fair contingent of French descendants in Canada but the English voices are louder here today. Come on England!"
    Gareth Davies, Thunder Bay, Canada

    1450: OK, enough of the pink stuff. Let's focus on red and white versus bleu, rouge et blanc.

    "I have just arrived back at home after a 10-hour flight from Denver. Was Ben Lockett the skier in pink that I ran over on my snowboard last week? England are clearly going to amaze everybody with a stunning last gasp victory!
    Ashley Georgeson, Nottingham

    "Australian actor Heath Ledger is sitting in a pink woolly hat and shades a few seats to my right trying to look inconspicuous. It's working for me at least, but then it would, because I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain!"
    Rob Hodgetts, BBC Sport at Twickenham

    "We are a crew of divers on the Rockwater 1 working in South Africa. We are split on the game. Some think a bounce back England, others think England to get stuffed. But a close result is what is wanted and no ref problems."
    Craig Frederick, somewhere off South Africa

    "I'm also on a yacht, only this time in Florida. Also hunched over a computer. However, I can't wait for France to beat Scotland next week. England by 20. Cheers Charlie, your old friend Mark."
    Mark Everard, Fort Lauderdale

    1436: A glorious day in Denver by all accounts, and it is gorgeous at Twickenham. The game will be played out under clear skies and the East Stand, along with a slither of the pitch, is bathed in sunshine.

    "As I sit here in Denver pondering a day of skiing in Vail I dream of an English victory over France - not. France by 40 points."
    Ben Lockett, Denver, Colorado

    "Don't forget the Italians! They would not be out of it mathematically either if England win. Everyone I work with, apart from the French, are behind England but, realistically, France should walk this. If we win though, boy would that make for an interesting final round of games."
    Mark Kidger, European Space Agency Villafranca del Castillo Satellite Tracking Station, Madrid

    1430: Good point from James and Johnny - what is riding on today? France cannot land the title but will take a significant step towards it with a victory and Scotland to come at home. An England win will keep their hopes - and Ireland's - well and truly alive.

    "It must be a first! Here in Moscow everyone, except the French, is supporting the English, and that includes, the Scots, Welsh, Italians, and us, of course, the Irish! How times have changed. Come on the Chariots, drive the French, for the Sweet Irish!
    James, Moscow

    "We have our fingers and toes crossed for England to beat the French and blow the Championship wide open!"
    Johnny, Loughrea, County Galway

    1426: And now for a bit of stretching and jogging on the spot.

    1425: All the French are out there now with David Skrela, gently jogging around in seemingly random directions popping passes off to each other.

    1420: Hopefully the crowd will be in good voice at HQ as a recording of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" will be taken today to be used in the official England song for the World Cup.

    1418: The band of The Royal Engineers take a breather and leave the pitch for a breather having had a tune up of their own.

    "I'm on a yacht in Istanbul, hunched over a laptop, praying France get it all out of their system today as I'm heading to Paris next weekend to watch the Scots give the French a run for their money. France by 60."
    Charlie Carlow, Istanbul

    1415: England coach Brian Ashton is keeping a watchful eye on Toby Flood who is still out there pounding balls up the touchline. Scrum-half Harry Ellis is the latest player to emerge from the tunnel to tune up.

    "Thousands of fans are already milling about outside the ground, drinking in the sunshine and exchanging good-natured banter. The odd rendition of "Allez les Bleus" sparks up occasionally from the sizeable French contingent, while the white and tweed clad masses chat amiably."
    Rob Hodgetts, BBC Sport at Twickenham

    "I'm seven weeks into a deployment to Sudan and I should be in the West Car Park with my old Army chums eating a Gurkha Curry and quaffing red wine ahead of another home international. Hoping for an England win but expecting the French to take us apart."
    Mark Beardsell, Sudan

    1407: France fly-half David Skrela is now out on the pitch swinging his right boot at goal. He brushes a mop of dark hair from his eyes, squints into the sunshine and pings another one over. He is their least experienced player with four caps. Thirteen of the visitors have more than 20 caps.

    "Catt's inclusion has nothing to do with him being the best player at that position in the league at the moment - something I strongly dispute. It has, however, everything to do with the Bath nepotism syndrome! I know, let's bring in Stuart Barnes, Jeremy Guscott and Victor Ubogu as well!"
    Richard Berry

    "We'll have to stand toe-to-toe with France to have any chance of beating them. Mike Catt's absolutely delighted about being captain and the players have responded well to him. Hopefully he'll take us down the road of changing the mindset as to how we want to play today."
    Brian Ashton, England coach

    "I have an exam tomorrow, and thought coming to the library would mean I wouldn't be distracted by the England game. And then I realise the BBC are broadcasting it online. Goodbye degree!
    Rob Wilkinson, London

    "Being inside the ground that is the real treat. There is a hushed, relaxed air to the place, but it's better than just being in an empty stadium because there is the expectation of something great and mesmerising unfolding later."
    Rob Hodgetts, BBC Sport at Twickenham

    1358: In addition, prop Tim Payne and winger David Strettle are making their first Twickenham starts. Seven of the England side have fewer than 10 caps. More than half of the side have fewer than 50 caps between them.

    1356:Toby Flood is out on the paddock at Twickenham with England kicking coach Jon Callard going through the motions with his touch finders. Jonny Wilkinson's replacement at 10 and flanker Tom Rees are making their first starts for England today.

    "Didn't Catt fail to make touch in the 62nd minute at Twickers in 1997 against the French who ran it in for a match-winning try? Seem to remember we lost 23-20. Oh well. I'm sure history won't repeat itself, though to be honest, we haven't got it up front and think we are in for a rough time."
    Kieran O'Reilly, Oakville, just west of Toronto, Canada

    "Mike Catt's the best-playing centre in the Premiership and has a great understanding of Brian Ashton. England need confidence, Mike's not afraid to lose and if he can instil that in the rest of the team they will play with confidence."
    Jeremy Guscott, BBC Sport TV pundit

    "Mike Catt's a great player, but international rugby is all about pace and he lacks that because of his age. The French will attack wide. It is going to be a big task for Mike and the England backs."
    Jonathan Davies, BBC Sport TV pundit

    1349: That "type of game" coach Brian Ashton likes to play is

    "It is a massive buzz being captain and the crowd has been fantastic. The team Brian Ashton has picked is full of young guys that can play the type of game Brian wants to play."
    Mike Catt, England captain

    1348: The acclaim Mike Catt got there is a far cry from the booing he has received in the past at Twickenham. The South African-born centre has been dropped 13 times by England and clearly has more than the proverbial nine lives.

    1344: The French have arrived, and now, so have England - eventually. Apparently it took them an hour to travel the three miles to get here. Shouts of 'Come on Mikey' greet new England skipper Mike Catt as he steps off the team bus.

    "I'm at home watching Chelsea v Tottenham. I Hope France defend as badly as Chelsea."
    Neil, Manchester

    1337: In the last year England have won just three of their 11 matches and of course, most recently, there was the Dublin debacle. Have England really got a chance?

    1335: The last time these teams met, almost exactly a year ago, England conceded a try after just 43 seconds in Paris. Things did not get much better. They were a shambles before losing 31-6 - their third successive loss to the French. Have England really got a chance?

    1333: In years gone by this match was known as 'Le Crunch', but today it has about as much bite as a soggy cereal. The hosts are seventh in the world rankings and a 'second division' team according to coach Brian Ashton. Have England really got a chance?

    1330: The countdown is under way for the 1500 GMT kick-off and the atmosphere is growing at Twickenham.

    How are you building up to the game? Are you at Twickenham, in a pub near the ground, somewhere around the world, or just sitting at home?

    Wherever you happen to be, why not let us know how you are building up to the whistle, what you have spotted on your way to the match - or wherever you are going to watch it - and how you think the game will go.

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    06 Mar 07 |  English
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    06 Mar 07 |  Bristol
    Guscott's England verdict
    06 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union

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