Rugby World Cup: Tournament favourites England make statement with victory against France

England have shown again why they're the team to beat at the Rugby World Cup, defeating fellow contenders France 13-7 at Whangārei.

In a clash of Europe's two elite teams, the Red Roses emerged victorious in a low-scoring thriller, with centre Emily Scarratt scoring all of her side's points.

The former World Rugby player of the year scored England's only try, as well as a conversion and two penalties in a talismanic performance for the tournament favourites.

England celebrate victory over France.
England celebrate victory over France. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

The 32-year-old went over from close range as the only try of the first half, before Scarratt's boot saw England add to their 13-0 lead in the second.

France hit back midway through the second half, as reserve loose forward Gaelle Hermet capped off a team move synonymous with French rugby.

A kick over the top saw winger Joanna Grisez pounce, getting to the tryline before getting the pass away to an oncoming Hermet, as Caroline Drouin's conversion closed the gap to six points.

And in a match of fine margins, there was no further change to the score, as England resisted a late charge to take top spot in Pool C.

Meanwhile, France will likely keep second place in the group, with either South Africa needing to win by 29 points, or Fiji needing a scoreline of more than 59 points when the two sides meet in Waitakere on Sunday.

France will be also sweating on the fitness of two stars, as starting halfback Pauline Bourdon and No.8 Romane Menager were both taken from the field with injury concerns in the first half.

England 13 (Scarratt try; Scarratt conversion; Scarratt 2 penalties) France 7 (Hermet try; Drouin conversion)

USA celebrate in their comeback victory over Japan.
USA celebrate in their comeback victory over Japan. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Earlier, USA picked up their first victory of the World Cup, coming from behind to defeat Japan 30-17 at the same venue.

Down 5-3 at halftime, USA ran in four second-half tries to Japan's two, taking four points and a crucial bonus point to move into third in Pool B, and keep their quarter-final hopes alive.

Against the run of play, Japan halfback Megumi Abe opened the scoring after just four minutes with a well-placed finish in the corner, while USA could only hit back through a penalty to first-five Gabriella Cantorna in a low-scoring first half.

Given a wake-up call at halftime, USA hit the lead after the break as hooker Joanna Kitlinski scored a runaway try for the first points of the second half.

A clever tap-and-go from a penalty sent Japan winger Hinano Nagura in on the right flank, but USA responded with two tries in seven minutes.

Second-five Alev Kelter showed her strength to cross over after a rolling maul, while replacement loose forward Elizabeth Cairns was on the receiving end of a Cantorna kick through the line to score USA's third.

The bonus point win was sealed in the 70th minute, as winger Jennine Detiveaux broke upfield to score, as Japan managed a consolation effort through when winger Komachi Imakugi scored an early contender for try of the tournament.

Kelter had the final say with a penalty on fulltime, as the competition's inaugural winners got their 2022 campaign off the mark.

Italy will host Canada Pool B's other second round clash on Sunday, before the quarter-finalists will be finalised in the final round.

USA 30 (Kitlinski, Kelter, Cairns, Detiveaux tries; Kelter 2 conversions; Cantorna, Kelter penalties) Japan 17 (Abe, Nagura, Imakugi tries; Imakugi conversion)

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