PARIS • England coach Eddie Jones did not look for excuses after his team fought back to avoid an embarrassing thrashing in a 24-17 defeat by France in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.
The Rugby World Cup runners-up had fallen 24-0 behind and were too far from their usual high standards in the opening hour at the Stade de France.
"We did not match their intensity early on. Why? We'd all like to know, if we knew, we'd never lose a game," said Jones, who had promised before the match the tournament favourites would unleash a "brutal physicality" on the French.
"We were not good enough in the first half, we didn't win the gain line."
England were without brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola and lost powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi to a groin injury early on, but Jones did not use those setbacks as reasons for the loss.
"Tuilagi tweaked his groin. He's a big gain line player for us. In those conditions we did miss him, but we've got to be good enough to deal with that," the Australian said.
France's second try was debatable as it appeared Charles Ollivon had knocked the ball on in the build-up, but it was awarded after review.
"When I look at the scoresheet afterwards, it's a try," Jones said. "If we think it's not right, we suck it up and get on with it. And, if it's right, we suck it up and get on with it."
There was little debate where the French stood out - in defence - with the forwards putting in a real shift of raw aggression and centre Gael Fickou outstanding in midfield.
Locks Paul Willemse and Bernard le Roux made 34 tackles between them as new defence coach Shaun Edwards' impact was seen immediately.
The hosts, who finished behind England in their World Cup group before losing to Wales in the quarter-finals, held out for almost an hour after spending large parts of the game without the ball in their own 22m area.
England came into the match after the interval and two Jonny May tries showed their attacking threat.
Willemse was one of 11 players in the starting line-up with fewer than 20 Test caps and he acknowledged this side's potential.
He said: "The scary thing is that I believe there's lots of room for improvement in our team still. So it gives me confidence in the future.
"All of us have this one mentality to go forward for the next World Cup and it helps a lot. Most of the team is starting our history now, it's like a clean slate."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE