| France’s Yannick Jauzion (centre) is tackled by England players during their semi-final tie in Sydney on Sunday. (Reuters)
Sydney: England overpowered ill-disciplined France 24-7 to set up a World Cup final showdown with defending champions Australia here Sunday at a rain-soaked Olympic Park Stadium.
Flyhalf superstar Jonny Wilkinson scored all of England’s points from the boot as the favourites adapted shrewdly to atrocious weather conditions to dominate France in every area and book a repeat of the 1991 final which the Australians won.
France cracked under relentless forward pressure, and saw winger Christophe Dominici and flanker Serge Betsen sin-binned in each half as England turned the screw with captain Martin Johnson outstanding.
England coach Clive Woodward was deservedly jubilant as the pain of the 1999 campaign when they exited in the last eight turned to joy.
“We’ve got a lot to celebrate. We will have a good week preparing for our ultimate goal...the trophy itself,” said the 47-year-old.
Johnson’s French counterpart Fabien Galthie playing in probably his final match at the age of 34 said it was the better placekicking of Wilkinson compared to Frederic Michalak which made the difference.
England had performed poorly in earlier rounds of the tournament while France had been in superb form. But England and Wilkinson, whose form had come under scrutiny, were not to be denied.
English pressure at a French line out was responsible for the first score of the match, Wilkinson potting a drop goal from just outside the 22. England continued to play the conditions superbly in the second half.
Wilkinson’s late penalty was the final nail in France’s dream of a third World Cup final appearance.