England got their Four Nations campaign off to a winning start, but only after an almighty scare which was only banished by two quick tries from Richie Myler.
The tournament hosts trailed 12-4 at half-time but three tries in 10 minutes, the first two of them to the 19-year-old scrum-half, averted what would have been a disastrous defeat.
It was clear from the start that this was to be no stroll in the park, like June's 66-12 victory in Paris. England did take a 13th-minute lead, but the rest of the first half was an uncomfortable experience. The try came when Myler and Danny McGuire linked up to release Lee Smith. It looked like the precursor to some expansivee play from this new-look England side. Instead, they lost the lead and the initiative in three minutes that were a nightmare for hooker, Scott Moore.
It was his fumble at the play-the-ball that got France moving. Sebastien Raguin got his offload to the Australian-born debutant, Clint Greenshilds, and he created the try for Vincent Duport. Thomas Bosc's converted off a post to give France the lead. It was soon extended when Julien Touxagas intercepted Moore's careless pass. He lacked the pace to go all the way, but Kane Bentley was sharp enough to dart over, Bosc adding the goal.
England got a crucial boost early in the second half, when Myler got his first, pulling out of a weak tackle and reaching over for a try which Kevin Sinfield converted. Myler then showed the quality of his support play to back up Sinfield's break and get over for his second and put England back in the lead. Two minutes later, Sinfield was over for one of his own.
France were pressing when Ryan Hall intercepted from Bosc and ran 90 metres to score. When Tom Briscoe touched down from Kyle Eastmond's clever kick it suddenly looked like a convincing victory when it had been anything but. France's final disappointment came when Jean-Phillipe Baile was sent off for a high tackle on Myler.
Tony Smith claimed never to have been too concerned about England's performance. "I wasn't too bothered about the first half," he said. "We just needed to show some composure. I think some of the players were a bit excited."
England: S Briscoe; T Briscoe, Smith, Shenton, Hall; McGuire, Myler; Morley, Moore, Peacock, Ellis, Burgess, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Roby, Graham, Westwood, Eastmond.
France: Greenshields; Duport, Baile, Raguin, Pelo; Bosc, Wynne; Ferriol, Bentley, Casty, Elima, Touxagas, Fakir. Substitutes used: Villegas, Sadaoui, Martins, Gagliazzo.
Referee: L Williamson (New Zealand).Reuse content