SAM Tomkins laid it on the line to his England team-mates after Saturday’s laboured victory, admitting: “Play like that against New Zealand and we’ll get stung.”
The final scoreline was convincing, but their performance was anything but – a point the departing Warriors full-back admitted after they secured their passage to the Wembley semi-finals on Saturday.
“We were average at best,” he said.
“The important thing was that we got the win, because it’s knock-out football now.
“But if we play like that against better opposition we’ll get stung. We’ve got a helluva lot to improve on.”
Like all three of their previous World Cup matches, England produced a 20 minute burst of brilliance, but the rest was largely tepid and uninspiring.
The scratchy half-back partnership of Rangi Chase and Kevin Sinfield conjured few chances in a dour second-half, making Steve McNamara’s decision to leave out NRL stand-off Gareth Widdop and livewire Rob Burrow – exceptional a week ago – harder to swallow.
On a brighter note, Josh Charnley fully justified the decision to recall him to the England side, pouncing for two tries to take his tally for club and country this year to a staggering 46.
Elsewhere, Mike McIlorum retained his starting spot at hooker, adding a hard edge to the front-row, and Tomkins took the official man of the match prize even if his last appearance at the DW Stadium ended early due to a sin-binning for a professional foul.
“It wasn’t the ideal way to end but hopefully I’ll not be remembered at the DW for sitting out the last seven minutes,” he said.
Four walls of noise and vibrancy greeted the teams as they entered the stadium, the atmosphere ramped up as they lined up for the national anthems.
But the vocal fans were hushed within five minutes, Vincent Duport, injuring himself as he punished soft goalline defence, gave the French a surprise 6-0 lead.
With hooker Kane Bentley limping off as well, the French were down two players in the early minutes.
England’s tentative steps began to take grip, and by the 12th minute Charnley had drawn the scores level with his first try.
Incredibly, it was his second of the tournament even though he had received just one pass – his score at Wembley coming from a loose ball.
From that stage, most of the half belonged to England,
wingers Ryan Hall and Charnley exchanging turns in scoring tries to make it 22-6 by the interval.
Hall’s first, in the 18th minute, finished a sweeping move to the right which saw Tomkins chime into the attack with a trademark run seen and enjoyed so many times on this turf before.
With Sean O’Loughlin punctuating the defensive effort with some thunderous hits, England were able to push their advantage to 16-6, Charley racing in for his second - and 46th of the year.
And without France laying their fingers on ball,
Hall grabbed his second from a neat move involving James Roby, O’Loughlin, Sam Burgess and Leroy Cudjoe.
The opening half deteriorated as a spectacle, but England easily dealt with France’s lame attempts to claw their way back into the quarter-final contest.
And from the restart, the intensity only picked up marginally, during which time O’Loughlin created another Test-level memory on this ground with a try from Chase’s kick.
O’Loughlin made his Great Britain debut at his home stadium in 2004, and was man of the match in a victory against the Kiwis three years later.
He was just two votes behind Tomkins in the MOM poll on Saturday after a battling and classy display.
Liam Farrell came off the bench for the final 20 minutes but it was another backrower, Brett Ferres, who had the final say, scoring a late try to take his tournament tally to three.