LEEDS RHINOS centre Kallum Watkins grabbed a hat-trick this afternoon on only his second England appearance.
The 21-year-old crossed in the 80-12 win over Wales a week ago and quickly enhanced his growing reputation further today but Steve McNamara’s side were made to work slightly harder for their latest victory.
Hull FC’s Tom Briscoe, meanwhile, continued his impressive scoring streak against the French.
He came in for Wigan’s Josh Charnley, whose four tries on debut against Wales was not enough for him to retain his place here.
Winger Briscoe duly scored twice on enemy territory at Hull KR meaning he has scored in each of England’s last four meetings with the French, amassing six in total.
Their Gallic opponents offered more steel than the Welsh in a disjointed game and, considering they lost three players to injury, battled on bravely to deservedly score through Kane Bentley in the 72nd minute.
But, by then, McNamara’s men – who face France again in next Sunday’s final at Salford - had already done plenty of damage.
Watkins put England ahead as early as the sixth minute after he latched on to good work from Richie Myler and Gareth Ellis but it took a while before they added their second, Myler producing a ball-steal on Clement Soubeyras before finding Briscoe.
Watkins scored again following an initial break down the left from Leroy Cudjoe before Sam Tomkins – back from injury to replace Zak Hardaker – sliced his way over too, Kevin Sinfield adding two conversions for a 20-0 interval lead.
Tomkins popped up for his second soon after the restart, which took him clear as England’s all-time leading try scorer, and then Briscoe capitalised on some swift handling from both Jamie Jones-Buchanan and the erratic Gareth Hock.
France enjoyed some pressure as mistakes crept into England’s game but the hosts generally defended their line well.
Sinfield then demonstrated nimble footwork to step his way through following a brilliant 50m breakaway from Leeds colleague Jones-Buchanan who impressed at loose forward in his 300th career game.
Bentley finally responded but Watkins had the last word with an interception for his treble.
Ellis, however, could miss the re-match after the Hull FC signing was put on report for an apparent high tackle which left Cyril Stacul groggily being helped from the field in the 14th minute.
The Catalan player later collapsed and eventually departed on a stretcher with his neck in a brace.
Stacul’s absence meant stand-off Thomas Bosc had to revert to the full-back role, which instantly reduced France’s already-limited attacking options.
England: Tomkins; Hall, Watkins, Cudjoe, Briscoe; Sinfield, Myler; Mossop, McIlorum, Hill, Ellis Hock, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Burrow, Harrison, Ablett, Morley.
France: Stacul; Cradace, Pala, Duport, Soubeyras; Bosc, Barthau; Elima, Bentley, Casty, Larroyer, Baitieri, Mounis. Subs: Pellisier, Griffi, Bemba, Simon.