World Cup finalists England saw their Grand Slam hopes disappear as they fell to a defeat in their opening game of this years competition to a youthful and resurgent France.
After England head coach Eddie Jones criticising his French counterpart Fabien Galthie for naming such an inexperienced side, Jones talked about unleashing a brutal physicality on the French side who averaged just 10 caps a man.
However, it was the home side who handed out the beating as they bullied the English pack from the start as they raced into an impressive 17 -0 lead thanks to try Vincent Rattez and captain Charles Ollivon with Romian Ntameck nailing both conversion and a penalty.
The French skipper stretched the lead to 24-0 early in the second half before England finally found some rhythm as Jonny May crossed for two brilliant tries to set up a dramatic last quarter. However, the French defence which has been so well drilled former Wales coach Shaun Edwards so recently switched allegiance.
Only a year ago France found themselves in a similar postion with a 16-point lead against Wales before they capitulated in a dramatic second half. This time other than a 15 minute spell midway through the second half, they held firm as they held the english out time and time again.
Speaking after the game former England skipper Dylan Hartley was critical of England’s completion as he said;
“It was a collective – everyone made errors today. From one to 15, guys were making errors and that's why we had such a poor performance. The best thing to do is restart, that's all you can do. If we eradicate personal errors, we're in that game.”
While another former Skipper Martin Johnson added;
“England needed to turn pressure into scores. You need more subtlety against a big, strong team like France because they can defend all day.”
France: Bouthier; Thomas, Vakatawa, Fickou, Rattez; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Haouas, Le Roux, Willemse, Cros, Ollivon (c), Alldritt.
Replacements: Poirot for Baille (49), Bamba for Haouas (49), Palu for Willemse (57), Woki for Cros (57), Mauvaka for Marchand (67), Jalibert for Ntamack (77) Vincent for Vakatawa (80).
Replacements not used: Serin.
England: Furbank; May, Tuilagi, Farrell (c), Daly; Ford, Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Ewels, Lawes, Underhill, Curry.
Replacements: Joseph for Tuilagi (16), Cowan-Dickie for George (49), Genge for Marler (52), Ludlam for Lawes (54), Kruis for Ewels (57), Heinz for Young (62), Stuart for Sinckler (73), Devoto for Ford (76).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)