Connect to share and comment
Owen Farrell kicked 12 points and replacement fly-half Toby Flood landed two late penalties as England inflicted a third straight defeat of the tournament on bottom-of-the-table France -- 'Les Bleus' worst start to a Championship since they lost their opening three games in the 1982 Five Nations.
"We were a little bit slow coming out of the blocks, they scored a brilliant individual try and caused all kinds of problems," said England captain and man-of-the-match Chris Robshaw.
"But credit to the guys, we stuck at it and when we got attack going we found space. It's a great win, it's an exciting time."
Much-improved France turned round 10-9 in front after Wesley Fofana's superb solo score provided the only try of the first half.
The game was still in the balance, with England leading 12-10, when recalled centre Tuilagi scored a try that might have been disallowed for a ruck offence in the build-up.
England, bidding for a first Grand Slam since their Word Cup-winning year of 2003, arguably got stronger when their replacements came on, while substitutes weakened France.
"I think we did well for 60 minutes but afterwards we weren't precise enough and made a lot of silly mistakes," said France coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
"England were very pragmatic. They didn't do amazing things but they were very, very accurate and us not enough."
Former France captain Saint-Andre reacted to a defeat by Wales by making seven changes and a positional switch.
Half-backs Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc returned while Fofana was moved to his preferred position of centre, with Vincent Clerc taking his place on the wing.
Up front, hooker Benjamin Kayser, prop Thomas Domingo, flanker Yannick Nyanga and debutant lock Christophe Simon featured in a new-look pack that forced England back at the scrum and frustrated them at the breakdown
Farrell and scrum-half Parra exchanged early penalties before Tuilagi, who had to have stitches inserted into an ear injury, was brilliantly tackled by Parra just a few yards from the line.
Instead it was France who had a try thanks to a brilliant 30th minute effort from Fofana, who evaded Lawes on half-way and sped past wing Chris Ashton before avoiding an attempted tap tackle by Robshaw.
Fofana handed off scrum-half Ben Youngs and the recovering Ashton's desperate dive couldn't derail a run of more than 60 metres to the line for a great individual score.
Parra converted and France were 10-6 in front.
Farrell's third penalty reduced France's lead to a point and that was their advantage at half-time, with Parra missing penalties either side of the break.
France were made to pay when Farrell edged England 12-10 in front in with his fourth successful goal-kick in the 47th minute.
Tuilagi, who on his last Test start scored one and created two of England's three tries in a shock 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December, extended that lead to 17-10 as the hosts finally crossed France's line.
Nyanga dropped a high ball and in the ensuing ruck the ball was kicked forward by Tom Wood onto England replacement Mako Vunipola.
However, South African referee Craig Joubert -- in charge when France lost the 2011 World Cup final to the All Blacks -- let play continue and the ball squirted out to Tuilagi who powered his way over from 40 metres.
Farrell missed the conversion and shortly afterwards England's lead was cut to 17-13 when France replacement fly-half Frederic Michalak landed a penalty.
Outside-half Farrell then appeared to suffer a leg injury in kicking a penalty that fell short of the posts and was replaced by Flood.
England, with Flood also kicking well out of hand, then played most of the last 10 minutes in the French 22 to secure a hard-fought win.