- Take a look at six historic versions of Le Crunch at Stade de France
- England have won four from nine in Paris
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A trip across The Channel to face Les Bleus represents a daunting start to the RBS 6 Nations for Stuart Lancaster’s charges, despite France’s indifferent form over the course of 2013. That said, England can take heart from a decent record at the Stade de France, having won four of the veune’s nine versions of Le Crunch since 1998.
Here are six memorable Anglo-French clashes in Paris.
France 9 England 15 – February 19, 2000
A first England triumph in the French capital for six years owed as much to bloody-mindedness as anything else, Matt Dawson’s side repelling a relentless barrage of attacks in the final minutes when reduced to 13 men. In an intriguing but turgid encounter, the visitors’ lighter forwards unsettled their larger counterparts, forcing errors and infringements at the breakdown.
That allowed Jonny Wilkinson to keep his team ahead from the tee, although the decision of Australian referee Stuart Dickinson to rule out Thomas Lombard’s first-half try for a forward pass helped too. Richard Dourthe landed three penalties himself and both Austin Healey and Simon Shaw were sin-binned in the closing stages, but England clung on.
France 24 England 21 – March 27, 2004
Sir Clive Woodward had the luxury of picking 12 members of his victorious starting XV from previous year’s Rugby World Cup final – Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson and Neil Back the only absentees. However, a first-half try from Dimitri Yachvili and 14 more points from scrum half’s trusty left boot secured a Grand Slam for France.
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Hulking No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy also crossed early on, meaning England were staring at humiliation at 21-3 down as half-time arrived. And while Josh Lewsey and Ben Cohen sparked an unlikely comeback with a pair of scores, France were not to be denied.
France 31 England 6 – March 12, 2006
Captain Martin Corry summed up England’s record-equalling loss succinctly after this thrashing in Paris, saying: “The first 20 minutes were shocking and we never recovered.”
Indeed, only 43 seconds had elapsed when Florian Fritz began the rout, scampering over unopposed after Lewsey and Mark Cueto badly misjudged Freddie Michalak’s up-and-under. Yachvili proved the nemesis once more, bagging a fine 16-point haul to complement further tries from Damien Traille and Christophe Dominici.
France 9 England 14 – October 13, 2007
Lewsey gained a semblance of revenge for his error of the previous year at the start of this nail-biting Rugby World Cup semi-final. He chased Andy Gomarsall’s aimless box-kick and was rewarded for his industry as Traille slipped to allow him to dot down with just 78 seconds on the clock.
It proved the vital score too, a penalty and a drop-goal from Wilkinson overhauling nine points from the boot of a 21 year-old Lionel Beauxis in the final minutes.
France 13 England 24 – February 23, 2008
A defeat to Wales and a lacklustre victory in Rome were pretty poor preparation for this game, but England revived their hopes of winning the Championship in front of a capacity crowd of 80,000. Jonny Wilkinson contributed 14 points including a record-breaking 29th Test drop-goal, while tries from Paul Sackey and Richard Wigglesworth consigned France to their first defeat of the tournament.
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Lock Lionel Nallet pulled a score back for the hosts just before the break to set up a tense start to the second half, but England’s scrum half shunted over from close range to clinch it with just a minute to go.
France 22 England 24 – March 2, 2012
Dispatching France’s four-year unbeaten record in the Six Nations, England turned out a wonderful three-try performance – second only to the outstanding defeat of the All Blacks during Lancaster’s tenure to date.
Two superb individual efforts by Manu Tuilagi and Tom Croft came either side of Ben Foden’s score, the full back latching onto Ben Morgan’s tremendous run. Welsey Fofana produced a typical moment of brilliance to edge Les Bleus into contention and heartbreak was on the cards. However, some desperate scramble defence – led by Owen Farrell’s physics-defying hit on Harinordoquy – saw England over the line.