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Two-try Ryan Hall handed boss Shaun Wane a timely reminder as England all-but sealed their World Cup quarter-final spot with a 42-18 win over France.
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The veteran Hull KR winger had been left out of the opening 60-6 win over Samoa with Wane preferring Tommy Makinson and star rookie Dom Young. But England’s record try-scorer returned to score twice tonight as they eventually dismantled France.
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It took Hall’s incredible tally to 37 in 39 games for his country and it gives Wane plenty to think about especially as Young added another two tries as well. Makinson made way here and the coach must decide who his leading pair is, if not for next Saturday’s final group game against Greece, then certainly the quarter-final.
England powered into a 12-0 lead in as many minutes courtesy of Hall’s double. The 34-year-old got over from Marc Sneyd’s pass after France failed to deal with a kick.
And then, after they ignored a simple penalty goal, he was in again following smart passing from George Williams and Herbie Farnworth. Sneyd, the Salford scrum-half on debut, improved both and when the excellent Victor Radley fooled Ben Garcia with his footwork, he sent Luke Thompson in for England’s third try.
France had not beaten England for 41 years and proved unsuccessful in their last 20 meetings. At that point, you could see why. Wane’s side certainly looked untouchable.
France hooker Eloi Pelissier exposed some shoddy goalline defence from debutant hooker Andy Ackers to dive over, Morgue’s goal suddenly leaving the visitors trailing just 18-12. Big prop Justin Sangare, who joins Leeds from Toulouse after the tournament, made a real impact off the bench to lift Laurent Frayssinous’ side and England were glad to see half-time.
They returned in more familiar fashion and were grateful to see Elliott Whitehead cross in the 45th minute, even if it did come from a questionable John Bateman pass. Ackers atoned for his earlier error by dabbing in a grubber for Radley to add another soon after and the pressure was alleviated.