England survived an early scare to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, with rather less assurance than New Zealand or Australia, but still with more than enough to spare.
The potency of their wide attack was again their trump card in what was overall an entertaining game, with their wingers, Josh Charnley and Ryan Hall, scoring their first four tries after France had taken a shock lead. Nobody can accuse England of not using the full width of the field.
The French invented the World Cup in 1954, believing in the concept when no one else did, but nobody seriously expected them to progress very far in this one. Had it not been for an easy penalty missed by Papua New Guinea in the first group game, France would not have made the quarter-finals.
On top of that, they had taken a fearful physical pounding from Samoa in their last match on Monday, two days after England had played. It is fair to say that little was anticipated from them last night.
The England coach, Steve McNamara, felt able to do a little mixing and matching in the pack, with Michael McIlorum starting on his Wigan home patch and James Roby, first-choice hooker for so long, on the bench. The surprise was the complete omission of Rob Burrow after the impact he made against Fiji last weekend.
There was another healthy crowd at the DW Stadium, far more than would be attracted to a run-of-the-mill international against France; further proof, if any were needed, that this World Cup has truly caught the game's imagination.
A wild pass from Ben Westwood in the opening stages put England under pressure but did not cost them any points. Not so after three minutes, when Sébastien Raguin got the ball out of a tackle for Vincent Duport to touch down.
It was the wake-up call that England needed and their first try had Wigan written right through it, Sam Tomkins – on his last appearance at the ground – getting a back-flip pass to Charnley.
It looked like a case of the early crisis being over when Tomkins delved deeper into his repertoire to hold up his pass and send Hall over in the opposite corner.
France were beginning to struggle with the tempo and they were caught short again by swift ball movement to Charnley's wing for their third try. Hall kept pace with his second try, from Leroy Cudjoe's break.
France were running out of players after being forced to make a series of early substitutions. They went further behind when Sean O'Loughlin plunged over soon after the interval from Rangi Chase's high kick.
Tomkins ended his residency at the DW by being sin-binned for holding down in the tackle, but Brett Ferres's try and Kevin Sinfield's fifth goal rounded it all off.
England now have the much more demanding task of playing the holders, New Zealand, as part of the double-header of semi-finals at Wembley next Saturday. That is the match that will determine whether the World Cup is a success or failure in playing terms for the hosts.
In the other quarter-final, Australia overwhelmed the surprise package of the tournament, the United States, with a quartet of tries for Brett Morris in the first half at Wrexham. Jarryd Hayne also ran in four tries in the 62-0 victory. Australia will play the winners of today's match between Samoa and Fiji in Warrington.
England Tomkins; Charnley, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall; Chase, Sinfield; Hill, McIlorum, Graham, Westwood, S Burgess, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Roby, Ferres, Farrell, G Burgess.
France Escare; Cardace, Baile, Duport, Greenshields; Bosc, Barthau; Fakir, Bentley, Casty, Elima, Raguin, Mounis. Substitutes used Pelissier, Khattabi, Maria, Simon.
Referee A Klein (Aus)Reuse content