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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
England destroy France
Ben Cohen celebrates scoring against France
Cohen scored twice in four minutes

England 45-14 France

England gave their World Cup preparations the perfect finish with a five-try victory over France at Twickenham on Saturday night.

Having seen a largely second-choice line-up lose by a single point in Marseille a week earlier, England's senior stars turned the tables against France's understudies to underscore their status as potential champions down under.

Ben Cohen scored two tries, and Jason Robinson and Iain Balshaw one apiece, in a devastating 10-minute spell that ended the match as a contest almost before the crowd had retaken their seats for the second-half.

Josh Lewsey added the fifth at the death, while his team ended with at least something to focus on in training after Aurelien Rougerie finally breached their try-line with the game's last action.

With eight of their mainstays taking the field for the first time since the summer tour, England took half an hour to get up to the warp speed at which they now operate.

It was a great hit out - a full-on test match
England coach Clive Woodward
A crafty professional foul by Jonny Wilkinson saved them the concession of a try inside three minutes, and when French blindside Patrick Tabacco was sin-binned for a late hit on Stuart Abbott three minutes later, England managed just a pair of penalties in his absence.

But when Clive Woodward's men did begin to click, they destroyed a decent-looking French second-string in a matter of minutes, beginning with Cohen's two tries in swift succession.

England 45
Tries: Cohen 2, Robinson, Balshaw, Lewsey
Cons: Wilkinson 3, Grayson
Pens: Wilkinson 4
France 14
Try: Rougerie
Pens: Merceron 2
DG: Jauzion
Sin-bin: Tabacco

Having kicked four penalties to Gerald Merceron's one, Wilkinson slid through a 33rd-minute kick that the flailing Dimitri Yachvili could only palm onto a post for Cohen to dive on the rebound.

Wilkinson was again the architect of Cohen's second just four minutes later, producing a superb offload from between two tacklers to allow Greenwood to send his wing roaring in from 30 yards.

Wilkinson's conversion made it 26-3 before the French had come up for air, and they were again left gasping for breath two minutes into first-half injury-time as Robinson fashioned a clean break from the merest glint of a gap in midfield.

France's respite lasted just nine seconds longer than the half-time interval itself, as they found themselves straight back under their own posts when Balshaw picked up the restart and weaved his way through at the flag.

At 38-3, that was the cue for Woodward to put his key men back in cotton wool, with Wilkinson and captain Martin Johnson taking a standing ovation on their way to the sidelines.

That allowed France to catch their breath and their interest in drop goals and penalties suggested their aim was now to "win" the second-half and forget about the first.

But a superb tackle from Cohen and England's final try from Lewsey put even that beyond them before the deserving Rougerie went over at the last for his own personal reward.

England: J Robinson; I Balshaw, S Abbott, W Greenwood, B Cohen; J Wilkinson, K Bracken; T Woodman, S Thompson, J White, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, R Hill, N Back, M Corry.
Replacements: D West, J Leonard, S Shaw, L Moody, M Dawson, P Grayson, J Lewsey.

France: C Poitrenaud; X Garbajosa, Y Jauzion, B Liebenberg, C Dominici; G Merceron, D Yachvilli; O Milloud, R Ibanez (capt), J-B Poux, D Auradou, O Brouzet, S Chabal, P Tabacco, C Labit.
Replacements: Y Bru, S Marconnet, J Thion, I Harinordoquy, O Magne, F Michalak, A Rougerie.

Referee: Nigel Williams (Wales)

BBC Five Live's Ian Robertson
"England will go off to the World Cup in very good heart"

England coach Cilve Woodward
"I'd far rather play France than hammer someone else 100-0"


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