England 23-13 France

England's Joe Marler and the team.

England's Joe Marler and the team.

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ENGLAND’S grand slam ambitions remain alive - just - after they edged out old rivals France in a tense Six Nations encounter at Twickenham.

Stuart Lancaster’s side were not as polished as they had been against Scotland or as gutsy as they were in triumphing in Dublin, but they had enough over 80 minutes to prevail against a revitalised France.

Defeat for the French, though, means it is now three straight defeats in the championship.

England, by contrast, face Italy at Twickenham in two weeks and then travel to defending champions Wales in a potential title, and for England, grand slam decider.

France centre Wesley Fofana scored a terrific try on 30 minutes.

Out of nothing, he collected a pass inside his own half and quickly evaded the challenge of Courtney Lawes.

He then side-stepped a meek tackle from Chris Ashton before setting off down the left flank and outpacing Ben Youngs and then the recovering Ashton to score.

Morgan Parra’s conversion made it 10-6 after he had earlier kicked one penalty to Owen Farrell’s two in a cagey opening, edged by French ambition and dominated by the whistle of South African referee Craig Joubert.

Farrell kicked England into a 12-10 advantage either side of the break, in which time Parra similarly missed two kicks at goal for the French.

Then came England’s stroke of fortune.

Farrell’s deep bomb led to uncertainty inside Les Bleus half and when the ball was kicked forward it ricocheted into the hands of Manu Tuilagi who raced across unopposed from 40 metres.

Farrell missed the conversion from the left touchline and then a subsequent, long-range penalty, between which Frederic Michalak stepped off then bench to keep France to within four.

Toby Flood replaced Farrell and alleviated the pressure by kicking two penalties inside the final 10 minutes to put a little gloss on the scoreline.

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