Steve Borthwick admitted England’s humiliating record defeat by France was a stark reality check after his side were booed off the pitch at Twickenham following their heaviest ever home loss.
England’s slim hopes of claiming the Six Nations title were blown away by an inspired France, who ran in seven tries in a 53-10 victory. The record defeat remains a 76-0 humbling by Australia in 1998 but this was their heaviest loss at Twickenham and laid bare how far off the pace England are in their last home competitive match before the World Cup.
Borthwick said: “No one is under any illusions about what we have to do, we have been upfront about that, and this shows exactly the stark reality. We fell considerably short against the No 2 team in the world and that is the reality. We wanted to put on a good performance for the fans so that really hurts us. We are incredibly disappointed with the performance. Immense credit to France who showed their power and pace and where the gap is. They played exceptionally well and we played poorly and have to learn from it and get better.
“I said we would have a good understanding of where we are at the end of the championship and how much work [there is] to do. We have to go away and understand what went wrong. We have to make sure we don’t allow the opposition momentum as we did. If you get overpowered it becomes difficult to win Test matches. We have to find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
England now face the daunting task of travelling to Dublin on Saturday and will face an Ireland team seeking to secure the grand slam if Andy Farrell’s side overcome Scotland on Sunday. Ellis Genge, who captained the side for the first time, said: “I am pretty disappointed. We have a lot of work to do and it shows where we are at. We lost the contact area and chased tails. Everyone will write us off and that’s brilliant – we just want to get better.
“France are brilliant and have shown why they are No 2 in the world and we are way off where we want to be. We probably need to be a lot better in the contact area and that is down to the forwards. There were some harsh lessons for us out there today.”
By securing a bonus-point victory, France have ensured the title race will go to the last day and Fabien Galthié’s men, who host Wales on Saturday, could yet successfully defend their title. After France’s first Six Nations win at Twickenham since 2005, Galthié said: “The players wanted to put in a big game against England. It’s hard for them. When you know the place rugby has in this country, our thoughts are with the England team who will experience a difficult moment.
“For us, it means we’re for real. The players, the staff, the French rugby federation, all the people who have helped us to be here. My thoughts are with them.”