France will be forced to field a severely depleted team against New Zealand next Saturday after having one player sent off, one reported and another injured in Friday night's brave showing against England.

Bobbie Goulding's side held a shock 12-4 halftime lead in the opening match of the Four Nations at Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, before succumbing 34-12 with five tries conceded after the break.

But there was further heartbreak for the tournament's rank outsiders when prop David Ferriol was booked by Kiwi referee Leon Williamson for elbowing England lock Kevin Sinfield in the head in the 72nd minute.

And to make matters worse centre Jean-Philippe Baile was dismissed shortly afterwards for a high shot on halfback Richie Myler.

Prop Remy Casty had earlier suffered a series-ending broken hand and coach Goulding said not even the home ground advantage against the Kiwis would count for much next weekend.

"There's no factor when you're playing against the world champions," Goulding said. "I personally think the competition will get harder now.

"But it's up to the players to go out and be committed. What's better than going out and playing against the best in the world?

"That will be our motivation this week and hopefully the players will take it on."

England coach Tony Smith thought the Ferriol incident was worse than the one which resulted in Baille's dismissal.

"He (Myler) is OK but he could easily not be," Smith said. Captain Jamie Peacock told NZPA the challenges were "bad shots but probably a result of tiredness rather than being malicious".

Charges will be laid on Monday with hearings Tuesday or Wednesday - although the French return home on Sunday.

The French side this weekend will feature New Zealand-born hooker Kane Bentley who scored a well-taken try.

England took just eight minutes of the second half to reclaim the lead when Salford's Myler scored twice. An intercept which saw Ryan Hall run 90 minutes to score with 15 to go ended French hopes.

Smith admitted the game was reminiscent of England's uncomfortably close win over Papua New Guinea in last year's World Cup.

But he insisted the performance which followed it, a 52-4 loss to Australia, would not be repeated.