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Record-breaker Wilkinson helps England beat title rivals France

Ben Foden celebrates after scoring his third international try in England's victory over France on Saturday.
Ben Foden celebrates after scoring his third international try in England's victory over France on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • England defeat France to keep alive hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam success
  • Fullback Ben Foden scored the only try of the match in England's 17-9 victory
  • Replacement Jonny Wilkinson sealed win as he regained points-scoring record
  • Wales survive an Italy fightback to triumph 26-14 win in Rome earlier on Saturday

(CNN) -- England took a big step towards a Six Nations Grand Slam with a 17-9 win over defending champions France at Twickenham on Saturday, in which Jonny Wilkinson regained the record for the most points in international rugby.

Coach Martin Johnson's team clinched a third successive victory in this year's competition courtesy of fullback Ben Foden's only try of the match two minutes after halftime, with the scores level at 9-9.

Replacement fly-half Jonny Wilkinson then gave England an unassailable eight-point lead with a 51st-minute penalty that took the 31-year-old Toulon player back above New Zealand's Dan Carter on 1190 overall.

Defeat for France ended coach Marc Lievremont's hopes of achieving a second successive Grand Slam.

Will French barbs derail England's rugby revival?

England are the best team in the northern hemisphere at the moment. The path to the Grand Slam is open to them
--France coach Marc Lievremont
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Unbeaten England next play host to Scotland on March 12, and victory at Twickenham will see the team able to clinch a first Grand Slam crown since 2003 in the closing match in Ireland.

"It was a good performance in that we didn't play well in the first half, but we were able to change our game in the second period and we could have had three tries," Johnson, who was captain of that World Cup-winning side eight years ago, told reporters.

"It wasn't as spectacular as our win over Italy a fortnight ago but I am very happy with the win."

Both teams converted three penalties in a tense first half, as England's Toby Flood and his French counterpart Dimitri Yachvili both registered a trio of successful kicks.

The crucial moment in the match arrived early in the second half after Yachvili's attempted clearance was charged down, resulting in a five-meter scrum.

Winger Mark Cueto attempted to advance beyond the French try-line before the ball was fed to Foden, who touched down to put England 14-9 ahead.

"I think the English are better than us at the moment. We're very fragile," Lievremont told AFP. "I think and I hope that they win the Grand Slam this year.

"For me they are the best team in the northern hemisphere at the moment. The path to the Grand Slam is open to them."

In Rome, Wales registered a second success of the 2011 tournament with a 24-16 defeat of Italy at Stadio Flaminio earlier on Saturday.

The hosts started well and went ahead in the fourth minute when center Gonzalo Canale went over, before Warren Gatland's side responded with two tries from winger Morgan Stoddart and flanker Sam Warburton.

The reliable kicking of fly-half Stephen Jones helped Wales open up a 10-point advantage with the score at 21-11.

Argentina-born Italy captain Sergio Parisse registered a try for the Azzurri after 50 minutes, but Wales held on to secure the win.