England coach Shaun Wane admitted the World Cup hosts will need to improve significantly in the next 12 months to beat the likes of Australia and New Zealand at next year’s tournament after a 30-10 defeat of France.
The Test - played on the day England had been scheduled to meet Samoa in the postponed World Cup opener - was Wane’s first since taking over from Wayne Bennett and while the scoreline suggests a comfortable win, France made the visitors work hard.
Jamaica and Scotland also began their World Cup preparations with a 30-30 draw at Featherstone after the Reggae Warriors fought back from 30-10 down early in the second half.
In Perpignan, former Canberra Raiders star John Bateman scored two tries in his first Test as captain but after racing to an early 20-0 lead, England allowed France back into the game and they can’t afford to give Samoa the same luxury at the World Cup.
"We will need to improve for games against New Zealand and Australia,” Wane told the BBC. ”I thought there were some good individual performances, but I will always look to try and improve us.
"The lads have done really well today considering it has been a tough day's travel and we have had three sessions on the field as a team."
Wane handed debuts to eight players, while Bateman captained the team in place of injured Man of Steel Sam Tomkins.
England will also be stronger with the addition of Canberra stars Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson, Canterbury prop Luke Thompson, South Sydney’s Tom Burgess, Brisbane centre Herbie Farnworth and Wests Tigers recruit Oliver Gildart.
However, France were also missing the likes of St Helens halfback Theo Fages and Catalans props Ben Garcia and Julian Bousquet, whose experience would have helped the young side whose potential was on display in the second half.
Toulouse’s promotion to join Catalans in the Super League next season will help the preparations of France coach Laurent Frayssinous and director of rugby Trent Robinson for the World Cup.
Rookie Catalans playmaker Arthur Mourgue was dangerous whenever he touched the ball, while forwards Corentin Le Cam and Justin Sangare made an impact from the interchange.
“I am proud of the young kids who made their debut today - eight of them – and they can be proud of themselves," Frayssinous said.
“Our first 20 minutes was pretty poor but in the second half it was 10-10, so some good stuff that the players done and we need to learn a few harsh lessons, especially in the first 20 minutes, what we can and cannot do at the highest international level,”
"I am confident that in 12 months we will be a better team. We will be competitive. We will play England again, Samoa, Greece and we definitely will be a better team.”
Wane praised the leadership of Bateman, who scored in the 19th and again in the 78th minutes when England had five-eighth Jonny Lomax in the sin-bin.
"John has been brilliant," Wane said. "He spoke well in the hotel before we left and again before the game.
"If you think where he's come from, that nervous kid at Bradford all those years ago, it's testament to his family. He did some really good things."
Bateman said captaining England was a huge honour.
"I didn't really try and celebrate much this week, I just want to get to the game,” he said. “I still can't believe it but I will celebrate tonight and have a couple of beers with the lads and my family."
Earlier, the England women’s team defeated France 40-4, with captain Emily Rudge scoring two tries.
With the French competition due to begin next month, the Test was the first match for many of the players in almost two years due to COVID-19, whereas their English counterparts have recently completed the Super League season.
Rudge scored a try in each half, while centre Amy Hardcastle and interchange forward Paige Travis also scored before halftime.
Super League's Women of Steel Jodie Cunningham, hooker Tara Jones and winger Caitlin Beevers were the other try scorers in the second half, while Melanie Bianchini crossed late for the home team.
Tara Stanley kicked five goals and Beth Stott added another in a comprehensive victory for England.
England 30 (Tommy Makinson 2, John Bateman 2, Liam Farrell, Tom Davies tries; Jordan Abdull 3 goals) France 10 (Corentin Le Cam, Justin Sangare tries; Mark Kheirallah goal). HT: 20-0.
England 40 (Emily Rudge 2, Amy Hardcastle, Paige Travis, Jodie Cunningham, Tara Jones, Caitlin Beevers tries; Tara-Jane Stanley 5, Beth Stott goals) France 4 (Melanie Bianchini try). HT: 16-0.