England's new look side did enough to warm up for the Four Nations, as they got over a tricky patch in the first half in Avignon to again prove too strong for the French, winning 32-18 last night.
A near 17,000 capacity crowd sensed an upset when France led during an impressive spell. But England, featuring their three southern hemisphere recruits for the first time, soon restored a sense of balance. Tougher tests await from Australia and New Zealand, but there were enough positive signs to give grounds for optimism.
Rangi Chase opened up play well with his range of passing skills and Jack Reed set up the first try and scored a spectacular 80-yard solo effort in the second half of an encouraging debut. "It was very tough," said the England coach, Steve McNamara. "Everybody showed some nice things and everybody some errors that we need to get rid of before the Four Nations. Our game management left a bit to be desired."
The visitors went ahead after just a minute through Ryan Hall with his first touch of the ball as an England player. They then went through an untidy phase, which saw France take a lead that could have been more clear-cut than it was. The home side scored when one of Thomas Bosc's kicks was won by their captain, Olivier Elima.
Chase then started to come strongly into the game, linking with Sam Tomkins to send Kirk Yeaman over and then his long pass gave Yeaman the space to release Tom Briscoe. Reed's long-range effort was the obvious highlight of the night, showing that he has out-and-out pace as well as considerable physical presence.