In Depth

Six Nations reactions: a day to forget for England and Eddie Jones in France

World Cup runners-up were handed a first-half hiding in Paris

Six Nations round one results 
  • Wales 42 Italy 0  
  • Ireland 19 Scotland 12  
  • France 24 England 17

England head coach Eddie Jones said his side “forgot how to play rugby in the first half” as France raced to a 17-0 point lead against the Rugby World Cup runners-up yesterday in Paris. 

England fought back after the break but France, inspired by captain Charles Ollivon and scrum-half Antoine Dupont, held on to win 24-17.

Just 12 months ago England had thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham, but this is a new-look French team under the guidance of a new coach, Fabien Galthie, and they fully deserved their victory. 

They got some luck along the way - particularly the second of their three tries - and it was a far from clinical display by Les Bleus. However, their defence and their discipline were the foundations on which they built their win. 

England need Mayday

England, who lost centre Manu Tuilagi early on with injury, salvaged some respectability in the final quarter, or more specifically, Jonny May did.

The winger scored two fine tries, and a penalty from Owen Farrell on the stroke of full-time brought England what could prove to be a crucial defensive point (for finishing within seven points of their rivals).

With neither Wales nor Ireland putting in particularly polished performances in their victories on Saturday, against Italy and Scotland, this season’s Six Nations championship is one of the most open in years. 

France should be too strong for Italy in Rome next week, while Wales and Ireland will be a tight affair with neither side boasting a domineering pack.

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Sloppy Scots

As for England, they take to the road again next weekend, this time to Edinburgh, to play a Scotland side still seething with themselves for their failure to beat Ireland. 

Like the English in Paris, Scotland enjoyed more of the possession in Dublin but their inability to convert that into points close to the opposition try-line cost them victory.

Shaun of the defence

England had 61% possession against France, and 70% of the territory, but on the six occasions they worked their way into the French 22 they were unable to get past the steely French defence. 

For that, the French have the English to thank, or more specifically, Shaun Edwards, the former Wigan rugby league star turned defensive coach, who joined France’s coaching staff in the summer from Wales. 

His handiwork was evident in the aggressive defence of France that unsettled England in the first 40 minutes.

“Full credit to the French,” said England coach Jones. “They played the conditions well. It’s like we forgot how to play rugby in the first half. We have to pick ourselves up and go to Murrayfield and have a bit of fun.”

Reactions after France’s victory

Owen Farrell, England captain

“We made too many mistakes and they capitalized. They got a foothold, we kind of paused. We had a bit more in the second half but that’s not the way we want to defend.” 

Owen Slot, The Times

“England were guilty of a horrendous accumulation of mistakes. France loved the assistance they were given, but they were high on quality themselves.” 

Jake Goodwill, The Daily Telegraph

“May’s solo masterclass saved England from humiliation in Paris as one of the worst performances of the Eddie Jones era.” 

Chris Foy, Daily Mail

“Don’t read too much into that final scoreline – this was not close. If it hadn’t been for two moments of magic from Jonny May, England were in danger of finishing this game without a single point to show for their efforts.” 

Stuart Barnes, The Times

“Once again Owen Farrell failed to find the leadership required by his beleaguered England colleagues… He is not a cool, calm captain, rather an out-and-out warrior.” 

Martin Johnson, England World Cup-winning captain

“It was one of the most error-strewn England performances I can remember. For England, next week becomes a must win.” 

Today’s back pages

England are brutally beaten in France

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