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England 10-5 France: Rochelle Clarke equals Jason Leonard caps record in win

England's players lifted Rochelle Clarke in tribute after the win

England’s players lifted Rochelle Clarke in tribute after the win

Rochelle Clarke won her 114th cap to equal Jason Leonard’s England record as the Red Roses beat France in the first match of their autumn internationals.

The 35-year-old came on in the second half with England leading 5-0 thanks to Amy Cokayne’s first-half try.

But France pounced on a loose ball to send Christelle le Duff clear to level.

Camille Grassineau’s dangerous tackle late on saw her sent from the pitch and England capitalised to drive Marlie Packer over the line for a 10-5 win.

The try sealed a scrappy win at the Twickenham Stoop but the match will be remembered for Clarke’s historic cap.

The Worcester player calls Leonard her “idol” and she could surpass his mark when England play against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday – a match which does not form part of the autumn international series.

Simon Middleton’s side will return to the competition against the world’s number one side New Zealand at Twickenham on 19 November, before facing Canada, ranked second in the world, a week later.

Work to do for Middleton

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England are seeking to build momentum before next year’s World Cup

The Red Roses are looking to build momentum before next year’s World Cup in Ireland, where they will look to defend the title they claimed in 2014.

France, winners of this year’s Six Nations, provided a stiff test and an England team boasting four players who competed at the 2016 Olympic Games at times looked disjointed.

They were hampered by multiple handling errors early on and were forced to defend doggedly after half-time but made their one-player advantage count when Packer crossed with three minutes to go.

England lock Abbie Scott told 5 live Sports Extra: “Rochelle is just absolutely immense and, as Jason Leonard has alluded to, it couldn’t happen to a nicer person. She encompasses everything that’s great about rugby. Everyone is so proud of her to have this achievement – it’s unbelievable.

“It’s been the first time we’ve seen the sevens players brought in. It’s been good to see how the dynamic works and it’s exciting. England have shown tonight they have statements to make.”