England´s women had set a high bar for the men’s side as they took the pitch to take on a youthful French side who had been hit hard by withdrawals from their initial squad. England hadn´t been immune to the same issue and were missing several first-choice players.
It was the forty-ninth meeting between the two sides, England having only lost on seven occasions, and the last time that the two sides encountered one another was during the last World Cup when England won by 42-18.
Shaun Wane had a much-changed squad including a new captain, following the international retirement of Sam Tomkins, as George Williams who took the armband on his home ground for the first time.
Despite some robust early defence from France, it was England who opened the scoring after just three minutes when Ash Handley collected and grounded a George Williams dink over the defensive line. Harry Smith put his conversion between the uprights for a great start for England.
An excellent Cesar Rouge 40-20 on eight minutes gave France their first attack of the game, but some scrappy play squandered the opportunity. But after the early set-back the French were in the game.
On twenty England were in again thanks to some terrific work from Jake Wardle who sprinted down the wing before finding Harry Smith on his inside to take the pass in plenty of space and run the remaining ten metres to dive in and score. Smith converted his own try for 12-0.
Three minutes later and England got their third as Ethan Havard took a fast pass from Morgan Smithies to go in without a French hand being laid upon him. Smith was on target again and in the space of four minutes the hosts were edging out of sight.
Danny Walker kicked a 40-20 on the half hour mark and on the third tackle Jack Welsby put in the final pass for Wardle to go in by the left corner flag. Smith was on target again, this one from the touchline.
France were in tatters as England walked in a fifth try after an excellent Handley break down the right wing and a great pass inside to his skipper George Williams to go over, unopposed, from twenty metres. Smith was on target again and England were 30-0 ahead, emulating the half time score of the Women´s side earlier in the afternoon.
Then, with forty seconds of the half remaining, Handley got his second of the afternoon as he found space wide right after France had carried a kick through into touch. Smith maintained his perfect kicking record to give England a 36-0 half time lead.
Good French defensive effort at the start of the second half kept England at bay for twelve minutes until Williams got his second from the back of the scrum with a Handley pass inside letting his skipper over. Smith missed his first kick of the game, England 40-0 ahead.
On the hour mark a great break from Jez Litten got England close before a Williams was again the provider for Handley who grounded for his hat-trick. Smith kicked the touchline conversion for 46-0.
Williams was turning into Midas. On sixty-three he broke the line with ease and found Kai Pearce-Paul in support to sprint in from thirty metres out to score under the sticks. Smith added the conversion, England were rampant.
Williams crowned his first game as England captain as he scored his hat-trick try when running in from forty metres after taking the pass after a thirty metres Handley break. Smith hit his ninth goal of the afternoon.
A Williams no-look pass on his inside found Welsby who made another fifteen metres before a floated pass to Danny Walker for the hooker to run in under the sticks and give Smith a simple conversion for 64-0, a final score replicating that of the Women earlier in the day as France failed to register a single point.
A tremendous England performance under the captaincy of an inspirational George Williams who led from the front and crossed the whitewash on three occasions. There was able support from Handley, Ashton, and Wardle while Williams half-back partner Smith also had a fantastic afternoon as he filled his scrapbook with twenty-four personal points on debut. Shaun Wane is never happy, but he´s certain to be wearing a smile on his drive home this evening.
England: Welsby, Handley (3T), King, Wardle (T), Ashton, Williams (3T), Smith (T, 10G), Holroyd, Walker (T), Havard (T), Nicholson, Pearce-Paul (T), Smithies. Subs: Litten, Harrison, Currie, Dupree. 18th Man: Thewlis.
France: Zenon, Romano, Langi, Laguerre, Marcon, Mourgue, Rouge, Chan, Marion, Vailhen, Jullienm Cozza, Goudemand. Subs: Tison, Sangare, Scimone, Jouffret. 18th Man: Jussaume.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, 22-0, 24-0, 28-0, 30-0, 34-0, 36-0 : HT: 40-0, 44-0, 46-0, 50-0, 52-0, 56-0, 58-0, 62-0, 64-0: FT.
Lead Exchanges: England.
Referee: Liam Moore.