Eddie Jones conceded England looked like they “forgot how to play rugby” during Sunday’s Six Nations defeat to France, just over a week after declaring he wants his side to be the greatest of all time.
Three months after losing to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, England were beaten 24-17 in an error-strewn display in the rain at the Stade de France.
The Red Rose bossed possession and territory in Paris, but made 23 handling errors and trailed 24-0 following a Charles Ollivon double, an early Vincent Rattez try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack.
Jonny May’s sublime double offered England hope, but they gave themselves too much to do and had to settle for a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell’s penalty with the last kick of the game.
France were heroic in defence, the influence of new defence coach Shaun Edwards clear to see, in the first game of the Fabien Galthie era and England head coach Jones was left to rue a sloppy first-half display.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 2, 2020
“It was one of those things, but full credit to the French. They played the conditions well. It’s like we forgot how to play rugby in the first half,” he told BBC Sport.
“We were slow out of the blocks, we were sorry for ourselves and out of kilter, we let the situation get to us. But we took responsibility magnificently at half-time.”
England lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on and Jones felt the centre was sorely missed, along with brothers Billy (broken arm) and Mako Vunipola (eye).
“They have been playing like that for a while, they played really good rugby in the World Cup and Shaun Edwards will make them stronger,” added the Australian, whose side face Scotland next.
“You miss good players and missing those three – the Vunipolas and Manu Tuilagi are difficult to replace – but we have to find ways around it. That is not an excuse for us. Manu was fully fit.
“It’s a good challenge, we are disappointed in our first-half performance but I have a lot of admiration for way we came back in the second. We have to pick ourselves up and go to Murrayfield and have a bit of fun.”
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