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Premiership Rugby

France are red-hot favourites’ says Woodward

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

While France romped to a convincing and stylish 43-21 win over Ireland in their quarter-final fixture, scoring four tries in the process, England were made to look distinctly second-rate by Wales during a torrid first-half period which saw the Welsh storm into an early lead.

Of course, England did manage to rally in the second period – replacement back Mike Catt having a major impact on proceedings to help rescue the Men in White's World Cup dream – but they were outscored by three tries to one and looked rudderless in the extreme for long periods of the match.

"We're holding our hands up – we didn't play well," said Woodward. "We're winning these games through sheer bloody-mindedness, but we are winning.

"If we can get a bit more 'nous' in our game and keep that bloody-mindedness I think we'll still beat France. But if we play like we did tonight we'll have no chance next week. But I don't think this team is going to play like that again.

"Clearly France are now red-hot favourites for next weekend's game. France know England very well and know which team is coming out to play them in Sydney and I'm looking forward to that game.

"Wales had nothing to lose and played tremendously well. It's the best performance I've seen from a Welsh team against England since I've been in charge and that includes the game we lost at Wembley. They did themselves very proud, but they lost."

England depart for Sydney on Monday morning and the team management will have plenty to think about over the next few days as they try to engineer the sort of form they displayed during their June tour of Australia and New Zealand when they looked every inch potential world champions.

Nevertheless, Woodward is not ready to give up on his World Cup dream and is adamant that a better performance is around the corner.

"We go into every game believing we can win and France are next up," said Woodward. "We've won every game so far and haven't played anywhere near what we're capable of."

By Justin O'Regan in Brisbane

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