Nearly half a year since their agonising World Cup exit at the hands of Samoa, a new look England side complete with 14 players picking up their first caps for their country gave fans a taste of what they can bring.
They were taking on the country that will host the next World Cup in 2025: France.
It didn’t take England long to get on the scoreboard. With their first set of the game they rolled France down field and forced a goal line drop out.
Despite a thunderous hit from French prop Florian Vailhen, England composed themselves and played a sweeping move right through the spine at the end of which a lovely kick over the top from George Williams allowed Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley to touch down.
France did show what they can do with a lovely 40/20 from Catalans Dragons’ Cesar Rouge. A warning to England to not take them lightly.
Another Rouge kick asked questions of England as Jack Welsby was unable to deal with it, fortunately Harry Smith mopped up before France could exploit the subsequent confusion.
We had seen one huge collision in the opening stages but the next one was very different and far more dangerous as Jake Wardle and Matty Ashton – former Warrington Wolves teammates before Wardle headed to Wigan Warriors this season – crashed through an advertisement as they chased George Williams’ latest delicate kick.
Wardle looked to have come off the worst from the incident but recovered well enough to carve through the French defence with a dummy before finding Wigan teammate Harry Smith in support to score less than a minute later.
That was a Wigan connection, especially as Kai Pearce-Paul started the move, and it was the same for the next try as a short Morgan Smithies ball put Ethan Havard through a gap to score a simple try.
The tries kept coming for the Wigan lads. After a lovely 40/20 from Danny Walker, a neat blindside play saw Welsby smuggle the ball over the top to Wardle to score.
Then the try of the first half as England moved the ball right breaking from inside their own half with Handley finding George Williams in support to score.
Before the half ended another great kick into a corner earnt England an attacking set as France made an error and a ball over the top gave Handley the chance for a second which he took cutting back on the inside.
There was more Handley action as he notched a second assist for another Williams try as the Leeds winger got on the outside of his man before feeding the ball inside to the stand-off.
It was all about Williams and Handley and England’s next try saw Handley complete his hat trick after a Williams kick.
Williams kept on dominating and set up a lovely try for Kai Pearce-Paul will a break down the middle of the field.
Handley already had a hat-trick of tries and he would make it a hat-trick of assists as he burst down the right before finding Williams in support to score a hat-trick of his own.
All of Williams’ tries were teed up by Handley as the two formed a devastating pairing.
The last try of the game aptly went to a Warrington player. A lovely inside ball set Jack Welsby away and he set up hooker Danny Walker.