England clung on to their slim chances of retaining the Six Nations title when a good start gave them a 24-22 victory over France in a see-saw match at the Stade de France on Sunday.

England opened up an early 14-3 lead courtesy of tries from Manu Tuilagi and Ben Foden and held off the hosts in a tightly fought second half, with flanker Tom Croft's late try effectively sealing the win.

Owen Farrell scored a penalty and added the extras to the three tries.

Stuart Lancaster's inexperienced side still have a chance to win the championship if they beat Ireland at Twickenham next weekend and France win against leaders Wales in Cardiff.

It's absolutely massive, the boys really dug in at times, Croft told BBC television. (It is) another great step for this side.

We've only been together for this tournament, we've come on leaps and bounds.

France, who beat England 19-12 in the World Cup quarter-finals last year, were kept afloat by Julien Dupuy, Lionel Beauxis and Morgan Parra's points from the tee until Wesley Fofana's late try but it proved not enough.

It's hard to come back against the English after such a bad start, French number eight Imanol Harinordoquy told a pitchside interviewer.

We clawed back into contention thanks to our pride.

France manager Philippe Saint-Andre had changed his scrumhalf and flyhalf for the game with Dupuy and Beauxis taking over from Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc as his side aimed to strengthen their kicking game, although they often looked dangerous when they ran the ball.

England went through the phases early on with France trying to peg them back into their own half as Beauxis kicked away possession as expected.

The hosts had their first chance when Dylan Hartley was penalised for standing up in the scrum but Dupuy's penalty attempt went just wide.

England, however, took full advantage of a pass by Dimitri Szarzewski that was intercepted by Farrell, who set up Tuilagi for a 50-metre sprint over the line.


Beauxis reduced the arrears with a 45-metre penalty but the relief was short-lived as England won the ball on the restart with Ben Morgan breaking through the defence to offload to Foden for his team's second try in less than 20 minutes.

Farrell missed a routine penalty that would have put the visitors 17-3 in front.

Instead, France narrowed the gap to eight points when Dupuy converted a penalty awarded by referee Alain Rolland after Chris Ashton grabbed Aurelien Rougerie, who had tackled Foden after he had called the mark.

Amazingly, France were only five points down at halftime after another Beauxis penalty gave them three more points when England were sanctioned for diving into the ruck.

Farrell restored an eight-point advantage with a 30-metre penalty after a Fofana knock-on was harshly ruled intentional 10 minutes into the second half.

Saint-Andre added fresh blood when he simultaneously replaced Dupuy with Parra, Szarzewski with William Servat and Jean-Baptiste Poux with Vincent Debaty.

England were down to 14 men when Charlie Sharples was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock down.

Centre Fofana, who had scored a try in each of his first three appearances, powered through the defence but failed to get the ball to the unmarked Parra with five metres to go.

Parra added three points from 22 metres after England were ruled to have wheeled the scrum and Beauxis added another long-range penalty to restore French hopes.

But a 30-metre run by Croft, who beat Harinordoquy and Rougerie's tackles, gave England another cushion.

Fofana's try in the 75th minute put France back in the hunt and they went close to snatching a win late on when Trinh-Duc's attempt at a drop goal fell short.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon and Sonia Oxley)