England crashed out of the Rugby World Cup as France booked a semi-final clash with Wales.
The French, seemingly in disarray all week after their pool defeat to Tonga, surged into a 16-0 lead with first-half tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard.
Ben Foden responded with a touchdown in a better second half for England but France edged further ahead with a drop goal from Francois Trinh-Duc.
And although Mark Cueto wrestled his way over the line for a second England try in the closing minutes, the dye had already been cast.
Martin Johnson’s men were soundly beaten and questions will now be asked over his future as England manager.
England had set a semi-final appearance as their minimum requirement and fell short. Despite today’s scoreline, a long way short.
The fact England had topped their group unbeaten and France had suffered defeats to New Zealand and the Tongans meant nothing today.
The fact England had beaten France in the semi-finals of the last two World Cups meant nothing today.
For the third time in World Cup history - after 1987 and 1999 - England go home having failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
England captain Lewis Moody said: “We are just thoroughly disappointed. In the first 40 minutes France came out on top, we had some defensive lapses and it cost us massively.
“We stuck at it in the second half, and we had a chance towards the end of the first half we didn’t take.
“It wasn’t good enough and it’s thoroughly disappointing for everyone in the squad and the fans, but credit to France they came out and performed.”
England’s line-out and scrum both creaked under pressure from a formidable Les Blues pack, and Moody admitted his side had struggled in those areas.
“The line-out didn’t go as well as we would have liked today, the scrums didn’t go as well as we would have liked, but that’s how it is, it’s Test match rugby it’s the highest level at a World Cup and you have to get that right,” he said.
“We didn’t today and we came off on the wrong side of the defeat and it’s going to be a hard one to swallow and we have to go away and regroup.”
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