England may have come up just short in their bid to win the Exeter leg of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix 7s Series but captain James Rodwell believes plenty of progress was made over the weekend.
England won every game to reach the Cup final at Sandy Park but France produced a sterling performance in the showpiece to triumph 14-5.
Manoel Dall Igna and Steeve Barry crossed for Les Bleus and although Ruaridh McConnochie continued his prolific form with another try, the Red Rose couldn't close the gap.
But with the squad containing a mixture of experience and youth, Rodwell is adamant the future is bright.
"It was a tough game out there – France are a really good team at the moment and have been on form for the whole of the European Series, so it was good for them," he explained.
"I was really proud of the boys this weekend – it was tough on the lungs because a lot of us haven't played since May but I was proud of how we applied ourselves.
"There are a load of positives – we came with a lot of new faces and I was pleased they got stuck in and mixed in well.
"They stuck to our team principles and there is a lot of potential although still some work to do. We'll move on to the World Series but we've got a nice pre-season for that."
Both sides came into the game with a 100 per cent record, having slain all before them, and after a cagey opening it was France who had a glorious opportunity to draw first blood but Alex Davis’ covering tackle forced Virimi Vakatawa to knock on over the line.
However, Les Bleus did get on the scoreboard just two minutes before the break as Dall Igna handed off Cam Cowell to power his way over – Terry Bouhraoua adding the conversion.
After the interval Dan Norton demonstrated his considerable pace to chase down and make a fantastic covering tackle on Julien Candelon but Barry dived over from close-range shortly after to double France’s lead.
At 14-0 down, time was running out for the hosts but they got themselves back in the game with three minutes remaining as captain James Rodwell won a turnover at the breakdown and released McConnochie who blazed clear and dived over.
England now had a spring in their step but Les Bleus held firm and saw out a 14-5 win.
But Rodwell claims his side improved with each performance over the weekend.
"We got better over the weekend – it's difficult when you're playing with someone for the first time but we did well," he added.
"You get more used to each other and we've got plenty of time before the World Series now.
"Everyone was great this weekend – I don't want to single anyone out because it was a team effort.
"We mixed and matched the team with a lot of different and that's what it was about for us – a development tool."
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