LONDON - Tries in either half by Fabien Pelous and Sebastien Chabal helped France to a morale-boosting 21-15 victory over a powerful but limited England in their World Cup warm-up at Twickenham on Saturday.
Injury-ravaged former captain Pelous after 12 minutes and impressive replacement Chabal after 71 made it a far more satisfying day for the tournament's hosts than for the defending champions.
The two sides meet again in Marseille next week, when their final tournament squads will both be known.
"We start (a string of warm-up games) with a win and that's important, even if (coach) Bernard (Laporte) had told us that style was more important than the result today," Pelous told French television.
"It's my first try in three years and that makes me even happier."
Of the players probably battling for selection on the England side, 20-year-old fullback Nick Abendanon had few opportunities, wingers Paul Sackey and Josh Lewsey were solid but unspectacular while centre Jamie Noon provided a reminder that there he is probably the best defensive centre available.
Lock Simon Shaw, outstanding against Wales, was again to the fore and secured his place in the squad after missing out on the last three World Cups while flanker James Haskell and Lawrence Dallaglio will have an anxious wait as coach Brian Ashton ponders the back row, probably his toughest decision ahead of Tuesday's announcement of his final 30-man squad.
For France David Skrela was no more than reliable and the door remains open for Frederik Michalak to reclaim the first five-eighths berth but Pelous showed that he is close enough to full fitness to probably warrant a place in the starting side.
Chabal made a terrific impact off the bench for the last 20 minutes while Jean-Baptiste Elissalde brought a touch of class when he replaced a limping Pierre Mignoni early in the second half.
Pelous equalled Philippe Sella's record of 111 caps for France and in his first appearance since November put his side on the scoreboard with the first try.
It was to prove a rare moment of organised attack as the two teams probed and pushed but found the opposing defences too well organised.
France looked the livelier but England's pack, buoyed by their all-important role in last week's 62-5 demolition of Wales, had the edge.
Consequently the scoreboard was kept ticking over with penalties, four for Olly Barkley and two for Skrela as England reached the break 12-11 ahead.
It remained tight after the break as an Andy Gomarsall drop goal and an Elissalde penalty were all either side had to show for their efforts going into the final 10 minutes.
England, though, looked the more composed and probably should have scored at least one try from a series of sharp attacks as the bodies tired in the heat.
But, as so often before, France absorbed the pressure then blasted back as Michalak set up Chabal for an unstoppable 20 metre charge to the line and the second try.
"It was very disappointing, we showed a lot of heart but the execution let us down," England captain for the day Mike Catt told Sky Sports.
"The commitment is there, we just have to build on it.
"They were very good defensively but we have got to be positive, we've come a long way."
England: 15-Nick Abendanon; 14-Paul Sackey, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Mike Catt (captain) (Jonny Wilkinson 77), 11-Josh Lewsey; 10-Olly Barkley, 9-Shaun Perry (20-Andy Gommarsall 50); 8-Lawrence Dallaglio, 7-Joe Worsley, 6-James Haskell, 5-Ben Kay, 4-Simon Shaw (18-Martin Corry), 3-Matt Stevens (17-Phil Vickery), 2-Mark Regan, (16-Lee Mears 50)1-Andrew Sheridan.
France: 15-Clement Poitrenaud; 14-Aurelien Rougerie, 13-David Marty, 12-Damien Traille (21-Frederic Michalak 57), 11-Vincent Clerc; 10-David Skrela, 9-Pierre Mignoni (20-Jean-Baptiste Elissalde 44); 8-Julien Bonnaire, 7-Remy Martin, 6-Serge Betsen (19-Yannick Nyanga 57), 5-Jerome Thion, 4-Fabien Pelous (18-Sebastien Chabal 57), 3-Jean-Batiste Poux (17-Nicolas Mas 66), 2-Raphael Ibanez (captain) (16-Dimitri Szarzewski 52), 1-Olivier Milloud.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)