England Under-20 were in action on Friday night, and it took only six minutes for a Saint to make an impact in France, Tom Stephenson registering the first try of their Six Nations defence.
The centre was joined by prop Danny-Hobbs Awoyemi in the starting line-up, while Howard Packman would also win his first Under-20 cap from the bench, but a game littered with yellow cards would swing in France’s favour late on despite a red card for the hosts.
That 21-15 match-up finished just moments after England Saxons had been denied victory in Scotland, Henry Purgos ensuring the spoils were shared at Scotstoun in a 16-all draw. The Saxons, led out by Calum Clark for a second time and also featuring Sam Dickinson and Alex Waller, scored a first half penalty try but with Scotland replying after the break, a penalty exchange thereafter meant the sides couldn’t be separated.
Though he would have a rare quiet afternoon on the wing, North would be on the winning side as Wales got their bid for a record third straight Six Nations title underway with a narrow 23-15 defeat of Italy in Cardiff.
And last season’s runners up England couldn’t follow suit in Paris, despite a try scoring debut for Luther Burrell as Stuart Lancaster’s side battled back to claim a lead from 3-16 down.
Clubmates Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood also turned in impressive displays but with Gael Fickou emerging from the bench to finish off a brilliant French try, England’s fight back came to nothing and the hosts prevailed 26-24. Lee Dickson was also involved at Stade de France as the Saints provided a squad high five players for England.
The quintet have all been retained to prepare for another tough trip this weekend, the Calcutta Cup up for grabs at Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
The Under-20s also head north of the border on Friday night and Wales are in Ireland for Round 2 on Saturday, while the Saxons have returned to their clubs with Aviva Premiership action ready to resume.