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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 06:56 GMT 07:56 UK
Ashton salutes 'bulldog' England
England celebrate their win in Paris
England players celebrate their fantastic win over France in Paris
England coach Brian Ashton paid tribute to his side's "bulldog spirit" after they produced another belligerent display to reach the World Cup final.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked nine points after Josh Lewsey's early try as England beat France 14-9 in Paris.

"We have some bright lads who have been through the mill and you can't buy experience like that," Ashton said.

"These guys won't give up. People talk about a British bulldog spirit and it is very much here in this group."

Following their 36-0 defeat to South Africa in the group stages in France, many critics wrote off England's chances of making an impact at the World Cup.

But Ashton said his players used all of the criticism and their past experience to power past the home favourites at the Stade de France.

606: DEBATE

"We knew it was going to be tough tonight but we did think we had a side that could go out and beat France.

"We didn't actually get things right in the first half but we were a bit smarter in the second in terms of achieving field position.

"And we knew eventually we would get within sight of their posts and Jonny would kick them over."

The victory was England's first in Paris since 2000, and the size of the achievement was not lost on an emotional Phil Vickery.

"It is just a brilliant day," said the England captain. "To beat France in France in a World Cup semi-final is a huge effort from everyone.

Don't fool yourselves for a second that the guys are not going to be thinking straightaway about going out and winning it next week

Jonny Wilkinson

"It was not a fantastic game of rugby, it was two teams desperate to win a game. But it had everything in it - fair play to the boys, they dug in and we had a bit of luck.

"Sometimes in sport things don't make sense and predictions are not right, and it is a very special day when the underdog rises up."

Match-winner Wilkinson, meanwhile, admitted he was not 100% happy with his kicking and insisted England would swiftly turn their thoughts to becoming the first in history to retain the World Cup.

"We have faced some incredible teams in this tournament - and none stronger than the one we have taken out tonight," he said.

"That was an incredible performance by the French and I don't think my body has ever felt so sore.

"It has been a funny story, this World Cup. Some of my kicks have gone over and some have not. But you just go back to it and give it all you have got.

"I had a better time at the end (of the match) - and I'll accept that. But I realise I need to get back working.

"We have learned by going one game at a time. We have a day and an hour to really let it sink in.

"But don't fool yourselves for a second that the guys are not going to be thinking straightaway about going out and winning it next week."

SEE ALSO
Rugby World Cup photos
13 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
England 14-9 France
13 Oct 07 |  English
Laporte proud despite France loss
13 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
Matt Dawson's view
13 Oct 07 |  English
England v France as it happened
13 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
England fans join the Paris party
12 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson calms kicking concerns
11 Oct 07 |  English
Wilkinson frustrated by cup balls
25 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union
Laporte wary of Wilkinson threat
09 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
England unchanged for semi-final
10 Oct 07 |  English
We must copy French, says Lewsey
10 Oct 07 |  English
Betsen takes place in France team
10 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
France pose bigger test - Johnson
08 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
French do not scare us - Ashton
07 Oct 07 |  English
England 12-10 Australia
06 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 18-20 France
06 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
Josh Lewsey Q&A
03 Oct 07 |  English
France 22-9 England
18 Aug 07 |  English
England 15-21 France
11 Aug 07 |  Rugby Union


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