France won their first Six Nations title since 2010 by defeating England 25-13 in a superb all-round display at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Victory also gave Les Bleus their first Grand Slam in 12 years and underlined their status as one of the favourites to win next year’s World Cup on home soil.
France led 18-6 at half-time after a dominant opening 40 minutes that featured tries from outside centre Gael Fickou and blindside flanker Francois Cros.
England hit back early in the second half thanks to Freddie Steward’s converted try before France captain Antoine Dupont’s superb score in the 61st minute took his side to the brink of glory.
Defeat for a gutsy but outclassed England meant that for the third time in five years they had lost three matches in a single Six Nations.
England arrived in Paris following a record 32-15 home defeat by Ireland—a match they played mainly with 14 men after lock Charlie Ewels was sent off after just 82 seconds.
Eddie Jones rang the changes, the England coach calling up full-back George Furbank, veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs, flanker Sam Underhil, lock Nick Isiekwe and prop Will Stuart.
France, by contrast, were a far more settled side with the return of Damian Penaud from a bout of coronavirus the only change to the starting XV that saw off Wales 13-9 in Cardiff last weekend.
A spectacular sight, with the Stade de France floodlights dimmed amid a firework display, greeted the players as they took the field to huge cheers of ‘Allez Les Bleus’ from the massed ranks of France fans.
Penaud made an early impact with a sharp pass during a swift backline move only for Fickou to knock-on.
But France went ahead in the eighth minute when powerhouse prop Uini Atonio won a scrum penalty, with full-back Melvyn Jaminet on target from 38 metres.
And seven minutes later they scored the game’s first try.
Penaud’s clever inside pass allowed rampaging centre Jonathan Danty to make ground into England’s 22.
The ball was worked left to left wing Gabin Villiere. England held him up, but in doing so left themselves short of defenders on the opposite side.
France worked the ball quickly across field and although fly-half Romain Ntamack’s long cut out pass bounced in front of Fickou, the centre gathered the ball safely and went in at the right corner.
England stayed in touch thanks through two penalties from Marcus Smith, with France now 11-6 ahead.
Jaminet was just off target with the conversion before England opened their account with fly-half Marcus Smith’s penalty.
Meanwhile a France defence organised by specialist coach Shaun Edwards, previously with Wales, held firm and Les Bleus cashed in on that good work with a try on the stroke of half-time.
England prop Ellis Genge produced a superb try-saving tackle on Ntamack but France had the momentum and blindside flanker Cros forced his way over.
Jaminet landed the tough conversion and France led by 12 points at the break.
England, however, hit back with a sweeping move as Steward, their new right wing crossed for a try, which with Smith’s conversion, that reduced France’s lead to 18-13.
A revitalised England launched wave after wave of attacks before the outstanding Fickou won a key turnover penalty to relieve the mounting pressure.
The match was still in the balance when Dupont struck.
The reigning world player of the year had had a relatively quiet game but seized his moment to crown a slick move featuring forwards and backs.
France lock Cameron Woki surged into England’s 22 before Penaud cut in from the wing. No 8 Gregory Alldritt kept the move going and his pass found Dupont.
Taking the ball at pace, the diminutive scrum-half brushed off England hooker Jamie George’s tackle before scoring a try which, with Jaminet’s conversion, put France a decisive two scores in front.