Eddie Jones paid tribute to France’s renaissance after admitting England were unable to match their intensity as they started the 2020 Guinness Six Nations with a 24-17 defeat.
Les Bleus claimed their first win on the opening weekend of the Championship since 2016 thanks to a double from new skipper Charles Ollivon and another score from Vincent Rattez.
Romain Ntamack also added nine points from the tee as France stormed into a 24-0 lead before a brilliant Jonny May brace hauled England back into the contest late on.
And while Jones was delighted with the character shown by the visitors in their fightback, he had nothing but praise for the way Fabien Galthie’s new-look France side performed.
“We weren’t good enough in the first half and they were very good,” said Jones. “We didn’t win the gainline, we struggled to get the advantage there.
“I thought the response of our players in the second half was absolutely outstanding. I don’t think we would have seen the response we saw in the second half if we had a mental hangover.
“It was just one of those games where France played well. I think we should be giving France credit, they are a young team, there is a bit of a renaissance in French rugby.
“There is a good narrative about their performance and we just didn’t match their intensity early on, we struggled to get there, why? We’d all like to know. If we knew we would never lose a game.”
The defeat was England’s fifth in their last seven away matches in the Championship and they will now travel to Edinburgh next weekend to face Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
But Jones insisted his side’s loss in the opening will not have an impact on his team selection for the Calcutta Cup clash despite being disappointed with the result in Paris.
“The only thing I know is that we’re going to go to Scotland with an L next to our name instead of a W which we wanted, nothing else changes,” he added.
“We’re going there to play an opposition that we know are going to be up for the game, we’re going to prepare for that as well as we can and beyond that nothing else changes.
“We don’t want to play another 40 minutes like we did, that’s obvious. The result of the game won’t affect selection, we will always pick a side that wants to win – that’s the best 23 for England that week.
“I thought the French played really well, especially the first half and again our boys in the second half responded magnificently. Well done to the French and we’ll pick ourselves up and go again.”
Red Rose captain Owen Farrell was also impressed by how quickly France came out of the blocks and admitted that England will need to improve to beat Gregor Townsend’s men in Round 2.
“We’re obviously disappointed, it was a tough match and as we said, we’re proud of the response that we showed but we have got to be better in the first half,” he said.
“We have to not let France get the momentum they did in the first place. If you look back at it, there probably weren’t a lot of errors but when you come away from home and play a good team like France here, what they were, were big.
“The weather dictated a little bit of that but we want to be better and control what we can control and probably be a bit more decisive early on, not let them into the game as much.”