France are likely to pay a heavy price in the rest of the tournament for their much-improved performance in the opening game of the Four Nations. Bobbie Goulding's side lost 34-12 to England at Doncaster on Friday night, after leading 12-4 at half-time – a far cry from their 66-12 humiliation by the same opponents in Paris in June.
But the cost could be a badly-depleted French side for their next match, against the world champions, New Zealand, in Toulouse on Saturday. They stand to be without their centre, Jean-Phillipe Baile, who was sent off in the last minute at the Keepmoat Stadium for a high tackle on Richie Myler.
Young scrum-half Myler was concussed after the game and faces a "head test" before he can be considered for England's next fixture, against Australia on Saturday.
A disciplinary hearing on Tuesday will decide the fate of Baile, one of the stand-out performers for the Catalan Dragons all season, but it would be a surprise if he was not suspended.
Video analysis tomorrow will decide whether Catalans' prop David Ferriol will also face a charge. He was placed on report in the second half for dropping on to Kevin Sinfield's head with his elbow. England coach Tony Smith was concerned about the incident, saying Sinfield could easily have been seriously hurt.
Goulding followed in the footsteps of another French coach, Arsène Wenger, by not having seen the episode. What he did see was a display which, as he said, "put the pride back into the French shirt".
The French deservedly led at the interval, despite the early loss of Rémi Casty with a broken hand that will keep him out of the rest of the tournament. Goulding admitted that his side tired in the second half, largely because he did not have enough players used to playing 80 minutes of high-intensity rugby league. He believes that what is required is a second French side in Super League.
For England, there were mixed messages to be drawn from the winning start to their Four Nations campaign. Myler, for instance, had a quiet match until scoring the two quick tries that effectively decided the outcome. Whether he will be passed fit for the next game is one question; whether he is the right man to face Australia is another.
Sinfield was among England's best with a thoroughly constructive contribution, the side looked strong in the front row and Ryan Hall scored a 90-metre try from his one running chance.
Man of the match, however, was Gareth Ellis, back home from his successful first season in Australia. As Smith observed, Ellis was a powerful presence even when England were struggling in the first half.Reuse content