England coach Steve Borthwick accepted his side had been given a huge reality check following a record-breaking 53-10 defeat by France at Twickenham on Saturday.
Reigning Six Nations kings France maintained their hopes of a successful title defence with a ruthless display as they ended an 18-year wait for a Championship win at the London home of their arch-rivals in spectacular style.
“We’re incredibly disappointed,” said Borthwick. “Immense credit to France — their power, pace and class showed. It shows where the gap is.”
Saturday’s 43-point margin of defeat was England’s heaviest home loss, topping the 36-point gap inflicted by South Africa in the Springboks’ 42-6 success at Twickenham in 2008.
And this humiliating thrashing was also England’s third-worst loss anywhere.
Only a 76-0 rout suffered by an under-strength team against Australia in Brisbane on the 1998 ‘Tour from Hell’ and a 58-10 defeat by South Africa in Bloemfontein in 2007 surpassed this reverse in England’s 152 years as a Test rugby nation.
France outclassed England in all departments as they made light of seemingly difficult conditions at a rainswept Twickenham by running in seven tries.
Thibault Flament, Charles Ollivon and Damien Penaud all crossed England’s line twice after Thomas Ramos, who scored 23 points in all, went over for the opening five-pointer.
“No one is under any illusions about what we need to do,” said Borthwick. “We’ve been pretty up front about that throughout.”
The former England captain added: “We wanted to understand exactly how the development of this team has gone and where we’re at compared to the best teams in the world. We fell considerably short, that’s the reality.
“I said we’d have a good understanding of where we’re at as a team by the end of the Championship and you can see how much work we’ve got to do.”
England, the losing finalists in 2019, have just a matter of months to turn things around before September’s start of the World Cup in France.
“We’re going to apply ourselves in every way, shape or form to make sure we give our best efforts and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Borthwick.
But in the short-term life won’t get any easier for England, who finish their Six Nations away to Ireland in Dublin on March 18.
The Irish, who started this weekend top of the world rankings, could be 80 minutes away from a Grand Slam if they beat Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday.
“We have a lot of work to do and it shows where we are at,” said England captain Ellis Genge after leading his country for the first time following Borthwick’s decision to bench Owen Farrell.
“We lost the contact area and chased tails and everyone will write us off and that’s brilliant — we just want to get better.
“France are brilliant and have shown why they are number two in the world and we are way off where we want to be,” the prop forward added.
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