Wilkinson already looking to final
PARIS, 14 October - Ever the professional, England's talisman Jonny Wilkinson was already looking ahead to next week's final in the aftermath of his team's stunning semi-final victory over France.
Wilkinson said both Argentina and South Africa, who meet in the second-semi-final on Sunday, would pose a massive challenge.
"They are different but both teams have shown top performances," he said. "They have both had a clean sweep and haven't lost a game and that shows a huge amount of consistency and quality."
Wilkinson was once again England's hero on Saturday, steering his side to a 14-9 victory over the host nation at Stade de France.
But the fly half had to dig deep to recover his match-winning powers in the second half.
Poor first half
The man whose drop goal in extra time clinched the Webb Ellis Cup in Sydney four years ago had a poor first half with the boot, missing the conversion from wing Josh Lewsey's early try, a penalty from inside his own half and drop goal that skimmed the post.
But he kicked two second-half penalties and a drop goal to send the defending world champions into a second consecutive world cup final.
"At the start some didn't go over and I realised I had to give it my all," Wilkinson said. "It got better and they went over in the end."
The French, who had spoken at length about the danger posed by Wilkinson, fought hard in the first half to avoid giving away penalties within Wlikinson's range.
"The fact that I get as many opportunities as I do is because the guys keep giving them to me. Every kick I miss they get me another one. With a bunch of guys like that you can't get disheartened," Wilkinson said.
England were the worst offenders in the first half and early in the second, allowing fly half Lionel Beauxis to kick France's nine points.
Both sides played nervously throughout, contenting themselves with kicking for position and pressuring full backs Jason Robinson and Damien Traille with high, hanging kicks, though neither player was troubled.
Even the introduction of fly half Frédéric Michalak for Beauxis at the 50-minute mark did little to inspire France's back line.
"The legs were a bit heavy but we can't look for excuses against an England side playing the percentages without playing anything great," said scrum half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.
In the line-out, England had the edge, stealing four of their throws, to two by France.
However, it wasn't until Sébastien Chabal replaced injured second row Fabien Pelous that England began to stamp their authority on that phase of the match and stop the hosts from building momentum.
"We weren't too worried about them winning the ball, (we were) just trying to disrupt it when they had possession. In their line-outs they have a good driving game. That's where we wanted to shut it down," said second row Simon Shaw.
For the second week in a row substitutions proved decisive for both teams.
England's Joe Worsley, who had come on for Lewis Moody, saved a certain try with a tap-tackle on wing Vincent Clerc in the dying minutes, while Dimitri Szarzewski, who gave away the crucial penalty, had taken over from captain Raphaël Ibanez on 50 minutes.
Impact from bench
England captain Phil Vickery was full of praise for the England substitutes.
"Last week the bench had a huge impact on the game and it was the same again today. You have to back them to come on and make a difference. Joe, as we all know, is a world-class player. Peter Richards, Toby Flood and Dan Hipkiss all came on and made a difference."
For France's outgoing trio Ibanez, Fabien Pelous and Pieter de Villiers, the dream of world cup glory is over.
"It's difficult to find the words to express my disappointment and the disappointment of all the team," Ibanez said. "We thought we would have this kind of match, it was difficult to the very end. It's a huge disappointment for all of us."