PARIS • Rugby is evolving and according to coach Eddie Jones, England, who lost 16-22 to France in the Six Nations tournament last Saturday to hand the title to Ireland, are struggling to adapt to the way the game is being refereed.
England suffered their second defeat in a row after losing to Scotland last week and Les Bleus, who had lost nine of their last 11 Six Nations meetings against England in the Championship, prevailed through penalties by Maxime Machenaud (four) and Lionel Beauxis, and a penalty try by Benjamin Fall.
Jones' side scored two penalties and a conversion by Owen Farrell, a penalty by Elliot Daly and a try by Jonny May. But it was not enough to stop Ireland from topping the table with 19 points from four games, after securing a 28-8 bonus-point victory over Scotland earlier in the day.
The Irish, who won their third Six Nations title in five years, cannot be caught by England when the two teams meet at Twickenham on Saturday, and Jones admitted the Red Rose needed a lot more work on the training pitch to handle the breakdown, having been repeatedly penalised in both losses.
"At the breakdown, we had trouble. I thought we had improved but not as much as we needed to," the Australian told a news conference.
"We didn't learn quick enough, I'm not 100 per cent sure why. We are not adapting to the referees' interpretation at the ruck as we should. We need to learn."
England were penalised 16 times, often at the breakdown, where the French also won several turnovers.
Jones acknowledged that England, ranked second in the world, are still a team in development.
"It's a tough period for us at the moment. Any team that is developing as we are, you go through these tough periods, when the game doesn't love you," he said.
"We're on the losing chair but you shouldn't get carried away or be too melodramatic about the way we are. It's going to take us some time, it's not going to come quickly."
England did come close to stealing a win after May scored a late try and they came within metres of the French line in the final minutes but while Jones could not fault the effort, his team were not at the races.
"We're about 2 or 3 per cent from where we needed to be today," he added. "We were beaten at the breakdown, we gave away too many penalties, and when we had the momentum we didn't score, whereas they did."
England hooker Jamie George also said sorting out their own deficiencies would take precedence over stopping Ireland from winning the Grand Slam.
Should Joe Schmidt's side win, they will complete only their second Grand Slam in the Six Nations era and third overall.
And putting a blot on Ireland's copybook is not on George's mind.
"I don't think it will be about Ireland, we've got to put some things right and have a good hard look at ourselves in terms of where we're at and what learnings we can take from the last two weeks," he said.
"That's going to be our motivation, and making sure we put on the right performance and learn from the things that we've learnt the last couple of weeks and fix the problems that we have."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS