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RWC 2003 HIGHLIGHTS – England ease past France into final

14 November 2013

  • Wilkinson kicks all England's points in 24-7 win against France
  • Woodward's side set-up Rugby World Cup final against Australia

The familiar combination of a dominant forwards display and the kicking prowess of Jonny Wilkinson earned England a 24-7 win against France and a Rugby World Cup final meeting with Australia.

Under the cosh against the likes of Samoa and Wales earlier in the tournament, England enjoyed a far more comfortable ride against France despite Serge Betsen's early try.

Martin Johnson and his pack took charge thereafter, laying the perfect platform for Wilkinson to kick all 24 points – one more than his contribution in the last-eight victory against Wales.

It always looked like a winning formula for Clive Woodward's side considering the inclement Sydney weather. Such was the capricious nature of the wind, France's Frederic Michalak made only one kick from five attempts.

That successful conversion came after Betsen had snaffled an England line-out and slithered his way over the whitewash. Though Richard Hill, back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him against Wales, did his utmost to hold up Betsen, the video referee deemed that the France flanker had made downward pressure.

Bernard Laporte's men were 7-3 in front but England – promised some "harsh words" from Woodward after surviving an almighty scare against Wales – never panicked. Christophe Dominici, though, did lose his cool and was sent to the sin bin for a trip on Jason Robinson.

England worked their way back into the game and took a 12-7 advantage into the break thanks to a Wilkinson penalty either side of another drop goal.

Neil Back

Photo: Getty Images

Though Martin Johnson's men were now taking the game to France, the weather remained a problem in the second half, with even the normally dead-eye Wilkinson spurning two shots at the posts.

However, he made no such mistake after Betsen had been sin-binned for a late tackle on him, dusting himself down to increase England's lead.

The Newcastle Falcons fly half had now found his range and added two further penalties and another drop goal to rubber-stamp an unexpectedly routine victory.

The pre-tournament favourites remained in Sydney, where they would take on enduring rivals Australia in a repeat of the 1991 showpiece at Twickenham, which the southern hemisphere side edged 12-6.

Prop Jason Leonard would go into the decider as the most-capped player in the history of Test rugby, having come on as a replacement against France to make his 112th international appearance and overtake Les Bleus' Philippe Sella.