Sam Peters For The Mail On Sunday

This was a very bad night for Stuart Lancaster’s England.

Less than a month before the World Cup begins on home turf, they were out-muscled, out-thought and out-played by a French team baring almost no resemblance to the stodgy outfit they faced at Twickenham last week.

Until a late surge put gloss on the scoreline, England were miles off the pace. 

England centre Jonathan Joseph scores a late try but the visitors were unable to launch a successful comeback against France

England centre Jonathan Joseph scores a late try but the visitors were unable to launch a successful comeback against France

Joseph scores England's second try of the evening as he evades a challenge to add to Danny Cipriani's second-half effort

Joseph scores England’s second try of the evening as he evades a challenge to add to Danny Cipriani’s second-half effort

England centre Joseph makes his way forward as he attempts to launch an attack during his side's encounter with Les Bleus 

England centre Joseph makes his way forward as he attempts to launch an attack during his side’s encounter with Les Bleus 

Cipriani, who was only given 17 minutes to impress, dives evades Yoann Huget (right) and Scott Spedding to cross the whitewash 

Cipriani, who was only given 17 minutes to impress, dives evades Yoann Huget (right) and Scott Spedding to cross the whitewash 

Toulouse winger Huget (left) vies for the ball with England full back Mike Brown during the World Cup clash in Paris 

Toulouse winger Huget (left) vies for the ball with England full back Mike Brown during the World Cup clash in Paris 

MATCH FACTS 

FRANCE: Spedding; Huget, Bastareaud, Fofana, Nakaitaci; Michalak, Tillous-Borde; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani, Pape, Maestri, Chouly, Le Roux, Picamoles

Replacements: Fickou for Bastareaud (67), Tales for Michalak (69), Kockott for Tillous-Borde (69), Debaty for Ben Arous (56), Kayser for Guirado (56), Atonio for Slimani (63), Flanquart for Pape (67), Nyanga for Picamoles (56)

Try: Huget

Conversion: Michalak

Penalties: Michalak 5, Spedding

ENGLAND: Brown; Nowell, Joseph, Burrell, May; Ford, B Youngs; Marler, T Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Haskell, Robshaw, B Vunipola

Replacements: Twelvetrees for Burrell (63), Cipriani for May (63), Care for B Youngs (48), M Vunipola for Marler (65), George for T Youngs (48), Wilson for Cole (65), Attwood for Launchbury (53), Easter for Haskell (53)

Try: Cipriani, Joseph

Conversion: Ford 2

Penalties: Ford 2 

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Attendance: 80,000 

Their set-piece was once again horribly exposed while last week’s pyrotechnics behind the pack – which masked a dire display by the pack – all but fizzled out into the Paris night.

Their scrum, for so long a source of rock-solid reliance, was again almost shambolic while their line-out offering in Dylan Hartley’s absence is a complete mess.

If alarm bells were starting to ring last week, they are in full, blaring cry now following this hugely disappointing display by a starting 15 which began the evening appearing to resemble something close to Lancaster’s first-choice team.

Almost no-one came out in credit.

Luther Burrell fluffed his chance to reclaim the ground he’d lost on Sam Burgess last week while fly-half George Ford endured his worst 80 minutes in an England shirt.

Danny Cipriani – scandalously given just 16 minutes to prove his World Cup worth – scored an excellent try with nine minutes left to put gloss on the scoreline before Jonathan Joseph’s 78th-minute try but it could not paint over the cracks.

Freddie Michalak kicked five penalties for France as England’s ill-discipline was punished and Yoann Huget scored an excellent second-half try as the home side claimed a comprehensive win.

All is not lost for England. Lancaster has instilled some firm foundations in his four years in charge and he has a canny coaching team. But this was a very bad night indeed for England’s head coach, who has much to think about before naming his final 31-man squad later this week.

On this evidence, the front five will be his biggest concern as his first-choice picks barely improved on last week’s offering and skipper Chris Robshaw was unable to influence proceedings.

They face Ireland in two weeks in their final warm-up and must improve 10-fold.

Last Saturday Lancaster paraded a largely second-string side and was rewarded with a frustratingly patchy display punctuated by both individual and collective moments of brilliance.

Here, the England coach named a significantly stronger side on paper with Luther Burrell the only player who could not consider himself as good as certain to be named in Lancaster’s final 31-man squad.

Lancaster handed another start to Jonny May on the left wing following his excellent contribution last week, while a slimmed down Billy Vunipola – who has lost a stone in weight over the course of England’s gruelling two-month camp – starting at No 8 with 37-year-old Nick Easter on the bench.

Bath fly half George Ford takes aim as the 22-year-old aims to impress Stuart Lancaster in order to make the final 31-man England squad

Bath fly half George Ford takes aim as the 22-year-old aims to impress Stuart Lancaster in order to make the final 31-man England squad

France flanker Damien Chouly rises high to claim a lineout ahead of England lock Joe Launchbury 

France flanker Damien Chouly rises high to claim a lineout ahead of England lock Joe Launchbury 

Billy Vunipola makes an attempt to stop Mathieu Bastareaud in his tracks during England's disappointing 25-20 defeat in Paris

Billy Vunipola makes an attempt to stop Mathieu Bastareaud in his tracks during England’s disappointing 25-20 defeat in Paris

Burrell began the game under most pressure after Sam Burgess and Henry Slade both impressed in a superb midfield display in England’s opening warm-up win.

Jonathan Joseph, England’s outstanding player of the Six Nations, started outside Burrell as Lancaster paired the midfield duo together for the first time since England ran in seven tries against France in a Twickenham thriller last March.

There had been fears of a flat, subdued atmosphere inside the Stade de France but, as kick off approached, it became abundantly clear the partisan French crowd were viewing this very much as a live Test match against an old adversary.

In steamy conditions and with temperatures pushing 80 degrees at kick off, England had a game on their hands.

France full back Scott Spedding opened the scoring with a long-range penalty three minutes in before Freddie Michalak punished Dan Cole for a needless ruck infringement with a further penalty on 11 minutes.

Cole was penalised again minutes later as France bossed the tempo and England fly half George Ford struggled to influence the game, making a string of unforced errors.

England’s ill-discipline continued to cost them when Vunipola dosily encroached on a French line out and Michalak put his side 9-0 in front after 17 minutes.

To make matters worse for the visitors, first-choice hooker Tom Youngs missed both his first two line-out throws as England’s set piece creaked for the second week running.

Huget scores a comfortable try as he manages to cut through England's back-line during the warm-up match at Stade de France 

Huget scores a comfortable try as he manages to cut through England’s back-line during the warm-up match at Stade de France 

Huget celebrates his try by making a heart sign wshortly after touching down during France's commanding display 

Huget celebrates his try by making a heart sign wshortly after touching down during France’s commanding display 

Now it was the England scrum’s time to struggle, as they were driven back at a rate of knots and loosehead prop Joe Marler was penalised for collapsing, gifting Michalak another penalty.

Ford finally got England on the board with a 28th-minute penalty before missing a second attempt after England’s were fortuitously awarded a penalty at the scrum before Vunipola was even more fortunate to escape a yellow card for a high tackle on Yoann Huget.

Michalak kicked the ensuing penalty to give France a deserved 15-3 lead but Ford pegged them back to a nine-point lead at half time after James Haskell was tackled illegally.

Lancaster and his coaching team had much to think about.

England showed slightly more intent after the break with Burrell making a couple of telling incursions and Jack Nowell also prominent.

But just as they began to get a foothold, it was kicked abruptly from beneath them when Huget cut through a huge hole in England’s midfield defence before dancing around Mike Brown and outpacing Jack Nowell to score a superb try.

England captain Chris Robshaw barks out instructions to his team-mates during the World Cup warm-up match at the Stade de France

England captain Chris Robshaw barks out instructions to his team-mates during the World Cup warm-up match at the Stade de France

England hooker Tom Youngs receives medical treatment on the Stade de France pitch after sustaining a head injury

England hooker Tom Youngs receives medical treatment on the Stade de France pitch after sustaining a head injury

Michalak made it 22-6 before Lancaster took Ben and Tom Youngs off on 48 minutes and brought on Danny Care and Saracens hooker Jamie George for his first cap.

James Haskell and Joe Launchbury then made way for Dave Attwood and Easter but England’s one bench player with the ability to change a game, Cipriani, continued to watch on from the side lines with 25 minutes left.

Nowell was forced to make a try-saving tackle on Mathieu Bastareaud as France threatened to overwhelm their desperately dysfunctional England outfit.

Cipriani was finally, belatedly given a chance to prove his worth – albeit out of position at full back – when he was introduced alongside Billy Twelvetrees in place of May and Burrell with just 16 minutes left.

But England’s fortunes did not improve until Cipriani and Joseph both crossed for late tries with the game already gone. The tries changed the complexion, but not the reality. 

James Haskell attempts to make a block Sebastian Tillous-Borde's box-kick during a highly competitive friendly in the capital of France

James Haskell attempts to make a block Sebastian Tillous-Borde’s box-kick during a highly competitive friendly in the capital of France

Wasps lock Launchbury goes head-to-head with opposite number Yoann Maestri during the Stade de France clash

Wasps lock Launchbury goes head-to-head with opposite number Yoann Maestri during the Stade de France clash

Captain Robshaw clings on to his opponent's leg in a bid to win back possession for his side and encourage his team-mates to press

Captain Robshaw clings on to his opponent’s leg in a bid to win back possession for his side and encourage his team-mates to press

The home crowd wave French flags from left to right as they cheer on their country from the Stade de France stands

The home crowd wave French flags from left to right as they cheer on their country from the Stade de France stands

England's Nick Easter and France's Rory Kockott share a word after the full-time whistle at the Stade de France on Saturday evening 

England’s Nick Easter and France’s Rory Kockott share a word after the full-time whistle at the Stade de France on Saturday evening 

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (pictured on the right) attended the match in order to get a close glimpse of Les Bleus 

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (pictured on the right) attended the match in order to get a close glimpse of Les Bleus 

 

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