England’s slim chances of winning the Six Nations title were dashed by an inspired France, who defeated Steve Borthwick’s side in a sobering 53-10 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
Steve Borthwick conceded his choices and tactics were no match for the world number two in a desperate performance that culminated in England’s worst-ever home defeat.
Telegraph readers debated France’s brilliance while others deconstructed where it had gone so wrong for England and suggested where England could go from here.
Readers bemoaned the disparity between error-plagued England and the ruthless French team.
When assessing England’s performance, many criticized their overall fitness, physicality, lack of passion and shortcomings in the contact area.
Others argued that ultimately the buck stops at the door of Rugby Football Union and its poor decision-making.
Alistair Munro: “The game of rugby has evolved from the game of England.
“It’s now about athletic strikers combined with defenders who don’t play according to rigid plans, but rather with ingenuity, flair and style.
“Ireland has it, France has it and even Scotland. Not England.”
Edwin Dodson: “There is a lot of talk here about coaches and players, and rightly so, but what about the RFU? Not only are they directly responsible for the England manager’s mismanagement, they are also ruining the Twickenham experience in my opinion.
“I don’t see it as a coincidence that as ticket prices have risen, club quotas have reduced and there have been fewer genuine rugby fans, that England’s performances at home have deteriorated.
“I’ve stopped going to Twickenham as I’ve spent most of my time watching the backs of people getting up to have another pint and endure the endless babble of their drunken conversation, often at odds with everything that’s going on on the pitch. ”
Chris Cottrell: “France, Ireland, Scotland and Italy show that rugby union can be an extremely exciting and challenging game. They do it with a run pass attack.
“England and Wales have spent years with ‘Pressure-Max’ where kick pursuit is combined with aggressive defence. The goal is to give the ball to the opponent and squeeze them until they make mistakes.
“While it used to work occasionally, it has led to atrophy of run-pass abilities. When England break lines, teammates don’t run support lines, tacklers aren’t pulled and manipulated, overlaps aren’t exploited.
Andy Cunliffe: “Why are the players to blame?
“England were superior man to man in terms of ability and fitness. It’s not that they didn’t fight, it’s just that they were completely surpassed. The coaching staff can only work with what they have and that seems so.” the best we have.
“This is the utter failure of the English rugby system as a whole.”
Where does England go from here?
Amid much criticism, some readers focused on what Borthwick’s side need to do to become competitive against the top teams in the world.
The majority of readers agree that the game was a reality check for the England side and some sort of development needs to take place. While some have criticized England’s club system and suggest it needs to be overhauled, others argue the side need more strength, tactical skill and cohesion.
Jonathan McCilwaine: “Finally a reality check. Yes, English players seem a lot weaker than their opponents; the French made them look like children. At least now that the head coach has admitted it, maybe we can fix it.
“It takes a lot more strength and energy combined with a lot more will and discipline. Fitness seems to be a real issue.”
William Osborn: “We have been humiliated by France and would like to hear reasoned suggestions on how to move forward.
“For me, it underscores a lack of cohesion. England said they wanted to move on from a kicking game. Well it didn’t work, it did. Instead of a planned game of contestable shots, we saw aimless, long shots that just put us under pressure. We couldn’t play an expansive game because we were constantly behind.
“The coaches I expect will put their hands up and say they got it wrong. They tried to move too fast.
“Any knowledgeable rugby supporter knew we had to be patient and let systems move in. It didn’t take long for that patience to wear off. Remember Lancaster and Andy Farrell’s shellacing after England’s RWC?”
Mike Jones: “For every area of French dominance, Borthwick had a plan to negate it, but the team couldn’t execute it, so they lost. Maybe he and his coaches are rethinking a game that’s basically about picking up the ball and running!
“France, Ireland and now Scotland are playing with a bouncy step and seem relieved of Plan AB and the rest. Instead they play free-flowing rugby which is amazing to watch when they play each other and which blows away teams like England who play to a lumbering Plan A in every area of the game.”
Robert Jenkins: “Getting rid of a player you don’t like is not the solution. Replacing the hate figure Farrell with the Messiah Smith did not achieve anything. If you looked closely, you could see that this was a team failure. 15 guys who play as individuals and don’t work as a team. Ball losses, penalties and deductions galore speak of a team that doesn’t function as a unit. Putting the boot on individuals is not the solution.”
Readers debated the sheer power, flair and dedication of the French side, with many particularly impressed by the performance of captain Antoine Dupont.
Some argued that any side, not just England, would have struggled to keep up with their physical dominance, intensity and pace.
Andrew Marshal: “Worst of all was how much England were just overwhelmed. The French were bigger, faster, stronger and much more committed. It was back to watching rugby when I was growing up in the 70’s when we were the perpetual wooden spoons.”
Tomato Deverlin: “Gutting, but France was brilliant. They played rugby the way it was meant to be played, with sizzling passes and fast pace. There’s no reason why we can’t play like that, but we’re too persistent, functional, rumbling.”
Jerry Markham: “The result came as a shock but we have to give France credit for playing pretty much the perfect game and the perfect schedule.
“England were poor but I don’t think any team could have stayed with France. It was an aching delight to watch her handling and imposing physical dominance.
“I found Jonny Wilkinson’s post-game comments very insightful as he witnessed the Wallabies’ 76-0 fill in Oz.
“England have hit rock bottom, players and coaches must be in shock. But England can only get better now when they’re at rock bottom. Well then good luck.”