Six Nations: France 22 England 16
PUBLISHED: 08:02 11 March 2018
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Eddie Jones insists England are negotiating an inevitable slump where the “game does not love you” after France handed Ireland the NatWest 6 Nations title by prevailing in Paris.
England, captained for the first time by Saracens’ Owen Farrell in the absence of Dylan Hartley, surrendered the crown they have held for the last two years with a second successive defeat, a fortnight after falling to Scotland.
The breakdown, exposed at Murrayfield, was a fault line once more but even more alarming were the 16 penalties that saw them whistled out of contention by referee Jaco Peyper.
“It’s just a tough period for us. We are always going to go through this at some stage,” said England boss Jones
“Any team that is developing, as we are, goes through tough periods where the game does not love you.
“If the game loves us then we might have won against France, but we didn’t get bounce of ball, we didn’t get the 50/50 decisions and we are in the losers’ chair and it is not a very happy place.”
It was the third defeat of Jones’ 27 Tests in charge and the Australian called for a sense of perspective while England address their slump.
“I don’t think we should get too carried away or too melodramatic about where we are,” he added.
“We are a rugby team and no rugby team has an aura of invincibility about them.
“Every team is fallible and every team has a weakness and certain strengths and, at the moment, teams are outplaying us in certain areas of the game and we have to learn from it.”
Jones revealed that number eight Nathan Hughes is “unlikely” to be available for the climax to the Six Nations against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Fijian-born Wasps star took a blow to his left knee inside the opening half hour and had to be helped from the pitch.
France could now finish as high as second in the Six Nations table if they topple Wales on Saturday and head coach Jacques Brunel was delighted after stitching together successive wins against Italy and England.
“There was suspense right until the final minute, but this time the coin fell on to the right side,” Brunel said.
“Our defence was remarkable and there was a lot of energy and will. We got a lot of good opportunities which we weren’t able to finish, but there’s lots to be happy with.
“We knew the physical challenge would be key and we controlled the ball and that upset England, they’re not used to that.
“I told them that if we won it would open up new and positive things. We’ve been criticised a lot but we believe in the team.”