England made it three away wins in the 2012 Six Nations when they weathered a France storm to run out 24-22 winners on Sunday.
England made it three away wins in the 2012 Six Nations when they weathered a France storm to run out 24-22 winners in Paris on Sunday.
The visitors outscored their hosts three tries to one in a thrilling encounter that went down to the wire as the French fought in vain to keep their 10-match unbeaten run at Stade de France intact.
It was a passionate performance from the English, who never relinquished their lead after centre Manu Tuilagi crossed for the opening try in the 13th minute of the match.
France's efforts in the first half had been disappointing, and the 14-9 deficit at the break was a good reflection of this, but also the superb work of the visitors.
England came out with the same passion and vigour in the second 40 as they had done in the previous half, bruising in the forwards and creative in the backs.
They were unrelenting up front, while France looked rudderless at times when they had the ball.
Their defence was outstanding and managed to hold France off on a weight of possession, until the French staged a dramatic fightback that was ultimately thwarted by their nemesis team.
England, mathematically at least, will head into the final weekend with a shot at the title – and Stuart Lancaster's bid to become the next full-time coach is building momentum. Wales, though, are now all but guaranteed the Six Nations title.
England's aggressive defence really rattled and disrupted France early on and the visitors took full advantage with two first-half tries.
Chris Ashton made a big hit on the halfway line and Owen Farrell and Lee Dickson combined to unleash Tuilagi who out-sprinted the cover to touch down in the corner.
Farrell converted with a terrific kick from the touchline and England doubled their lead five minutes later.
Number eight Ben Morgan thundered through the French defence before offloading to his namesake Foden and the England full-back scrambled to the line. Farrell added the simple conversion.
France kept in the game with three first-half penalties, Lionel Beauxis landing two and Julien Dupuy slotting one.
Farrell landed a penalty early in the second half as England survived a period with Charlie Sharples in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on. On his return, though, Beauxis and replacement Morgan Parra cut England's lead.
However, the decisive moment came when Tom Croft was given space to hit full stride before cutting through the French line and rounding the cover.
Farrell's tough conversion was crucial as France rallied once again.
Finally France crossed the tryline to make it a tension-filled last five minutes as Wesley Fofana went over in the corner for his fourth try in as many matches after being fed by Parra, who then converted from the touchline.
The French went roaring back into the English half spearheaded by AurÃ©lien Rougerie but replacement Francois Trinh-Duc's effort at a drop-goal fell short and England held on.
Man of the match: England's victory truly was a group effort, and a team gong is richly deserved. However, it's hard not to single out some outstanding performances – namely from Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Owen Farrell. But in the end we thought Ben Morgan gave as good as he got with a tough and uncompromising effort at number eight for England.
Moment of the match: Take your pick! There were many, but England's third try did it for us as Tom Croft sent AurÃ©lien Rougerie the wrong way and broke one tackle to touch down. Brilliant.
Villain of the match: There was a yellow card for Charlie Sharples, but we really don't think there was hardly any malice involved.
Pens: Beauxis 3 , Dupuy, Parra
Tries: Tuilagi, Foden, Croft
Cons: Farell 3
Pen: Farrell 2
France: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 AurÃ©lien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yohann Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 William Servat, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Lionel Nallet, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Francois Trinh-Duc, 22 Maxime Mermoz.
England : 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Charlie Sharples, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Mike Brown.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
By Dave Morris