Roby stakes his claim in Eng­land vic­tory that puts the fringe on top

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There were pos­i­tives, though, on an ul­ti­mately com­fort­able night in terms of the re­sult – the main one be­ing the in­flu­ence and per­for­mance of the St He­lens hooker, James Roby, once again. Roby, handed a first start at this World Cup with Josh Hodg­son left out, did more than enough to press his claim for a start­ing place against PNG, though Ben­nett may still pre­fer the NRL ex­pe­ri­ence that Hodg­son pro­vides.

Fur­ther­more the Eng­land coach has an in­ter­est­ing quandary on his hands in re­gards to his half-back se­lec­tion. Kevin Brown said this week that he was fully aware his first World Cup ap­pear­ance, at the age of 33, could be his last but his firsthalf per­for­mance will, like Roby’s, have pos­si­bly per­suaded Ben­nett of an­other start next week­end.

When Eng­land were at their crisp, in­ci­sive best through the open­ing 40 min­utes, Brown was im­pres­sive - and his ex­pe­ri­ence in the halves helped bring the best out of not only Luke Gale at scrum-half but also Gareth Wid­dop, who ex­celled at full-back rather than his usual po­si­tion of stand-off. There are play­ers, such as St He­lens’ Jonny Lo­max, who could re­turn to the side next week, but this spine, cer­tainly for some stages at least, pro­duced Eng­land’s best at­tack­ing mo­ments of the tour­na­ment.

Fac­ing a French side who, re­al­is­ti­cally, needed a mi­nor mir­a­cle to reach the quar­ter-fi­nals, Eng­land thor­oughly out­classed Aurélien Cologni’s team and were out of sight by half-time. Like last week – when Eng­land were com­fort­ably ahead at the break against Le­banon – there was an ex­pec­ta­tion that they would kick on. Again that did not ma­te­ri­alise. That is Ben­nett’s big­gest frus­tra­tion as things stand. The tal­ent is there, the mind-set per­haps not so much.

It was Wid­dop who opened the scor­ing af­ter three min­utes, when a su­perb pass from Brown sent the St George Illawarra pivot through in what was a sign of things to come. Eng­land were su­perb early on, with Ste­fan Ratch­ford scor­ing their sec­ond try be­fore an­other free-flow­ing move – again in­volv­ing Brown and Wid­dop – put James Gra­ham over.

By the time France reg­is­tered their only try of the night through Ben Gar­cia, two more Eng­land tries via Mark Per­ci­val and John Bate­man had en­sured that Ben­nett’s side would, as many ex­pected, con­firm sec­ond place in Group A with rel­a­tive ease.

Ben­nett would use the sec­ond half for ex­per­i­men­tal pur­poses, with a num­ber of play­ers play­ing in un­fa­mil­iar po­si­tions – and that stunted Eng­land’s flow, with er­rors lim­it­ing them to only two fur­ther tries af­ter half-time. They both came from the Hud­der­s­field wing, Jer­maine McGillvary, who now has an im­pres­sive re­turn of 10 tries in nine games for his coun­try.

De­fen­sively Eng­land were again res­o­lute. The group stage has pro­gressed as many ex­pected. Se­lec­tion de­ci­sions as the busi­ness end of the tour­na­ment gets un­der way will now be fas­ci­nat­ing. Eng­land Wid­dop; Ratch­ford, Bate­man, Per­ci­val, McGillvary; Brown, Gale; Gra­ham, Roby, Hill, Cur­rie, McMeeken, O’Lough­lin. In­ter­change Walm­s­ley, T Burgess, Wil­liams, Tay­lor.

Tries Wid­dop, Ratch­ford, Gra­ham, Per­ci­val, Bate­man, McGillvary 2. Goals Wid­dop 4.

France Kheiral­lah; Yaha, Ader, Car­dace, Ber­gal; Fages, Al­bert; Maria, Boude­bza, Bous­quet, Gar­cia, Jul­lien, Baitieri. In­ter­change Navar­rete, Mar­galet, Herold, Marginet.

Try Gar­cia. Goal Kheiral­lah.

Ref­eree P Ben­tham.

Paul Kane/ Getty Im­ages

James Roby car­ries the fight to the French dur­ing a com­pre­hen­sive Eng­land vic­tory that puts them in the quar­ter-fi­nals

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