Chabal evades Olly Barkley to score France's winning try
England (12) 15
Pens: Barkley 4
France (11) 21
Tries: Pelous, Chabal
Pen: Skrela 2, Elissalde
England produced an encouraging display against France despite losing 21-15 in a tight and physical World Cup warm-up game at Twickenham on Saturday.
Olly Barkley kicked four penalties for a 12-11 half-time lead, as England's pack dominated the opening 40 minutes.
Andy Gomarsall's cheeky drop-goal extended the lead, but a superb Dimitri Szarzewski tackle on Phil Vickery stopped England getting out of sight.
Sebastien Chabal punished England as he crossed late on to give France victory.
After last week's rout of a second-string Wales side, the match against France proved much more of a realistic test of England's World Cup prospects.
And the assessment is a lot rosier than the home defeat might suggest, with several players - including the likes of lock Ben Kay and number eight Lawrence Dallaglio - doing enough to book their places in England's 30-man World Cup squad.
The hosts opened the scoring though Barkley's first penalty but France soon hit back through former captain Fabien Pelous, playing his first international since last November after injury.
Pelous, who equalled Philippe Sella's French record of 111 caps, squeezed past Josh Lewsey to touch down in the corner - following great work up the middle by Aurelien Rougerie - after David Skrela's clever pass cut out the rest of the England defenders.
Barkley's goal-kicking was a major plus for England
It was a tight first half with England going into the interval with a one-point lead thanks to Barkley's flawless goal-kicking, including three penalties which were far from straightforward.
His accuracy with the boot punished any France indiscipline, and England were showing real promise and ambition in attack with the midfield combination of Mike Catt and Jamie Noon working well.
The second half was a scrappier affair, especially after both coaches began introducing the usual slew of replacements.
Noon's defence set the tone as an aggressive England unit kept France at bay for much of the second half.
There was no score until 15 minutes into the second period when Gomarsall took charge of a labouring move to kick a drop-goal from close range.
France replacement Jean-Baptiste Elissalde cut the gap to a point again with a well-struck penalty from long range.
England should have put the match beyond France when an exhilarating move, sparked by Nick Abendanon's burst, saw the ball fired out wide.
But the move ended when Szarzewski knocked Vickery flying and turned over possession just inches short of the try-line, although more clinical passing would have denied France the chance.
England paid a heavy price for their profligacy when Chabal, running into open space out wide, powered through Abendanon and Lewsey's tackle to cross out wide.
France did a professional job of eating up the remaining time on the clock, as England ran out of ideas late on.
England: Abendanon (Bath), Sackey (Wasps), Noon (Newcastle), Catt (London Irish, capt) Lewsey (Wasps), Barkley (Bath), Perry (Bristol); Sheridan (Sale), Regan (Bristol), Stevens (Bath), Shaw (Wasps), Kay (Leicester), Haskell (Wasps), Worsley (Wasps) Dallaglio (Wasps)
Replacements: Mears (Bath), Vickery (Wasps), Corry (Leicester), Borthwick (Bath), Gomarsall (Harlequins), Wilkinson (Newcastle), Cipriani (Wasps)
France: Poitrenaud (Toulouse); Clerc (Toulouse), Marty (Perpignan), Traille (Biarritz), Rougerie (Clermont-Auvergne); Skrela (Stade Francais), Mignoni (Clermont-Auvergne); Milloud (Bourgoin), Ibanez (Wasps, capt), Poux (Toulouse), Pelous (Toulouse), Thion (Biarritz), Betsen (Biarritz), Martin (Stade Francais), Bonnaire (Bourgoin)
Replacements: Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Mas (Perpignan), Chabal (Sale), Nyanga (Toulouse), Elissalde (Toulouse), Michalak (Toulouse), Heymans (Toulouse).