If there was a nagging feeling that England’s earlier two wins over Italy and Wales had papered over some cracks on this rebuild below Steve Borthwick, then probably the most humiliating day in Twickenham historical past ripped them open and uncovered the embarrassing core beneath.
By no means earlier than, in 152 years of taking part in worldwide rugby, had an England crew suffered a house defeat this heavy. France obliterated their hosts 53-10 – surpassing the 42-6 loss to South Africa in 2008 – to offer Borthwick’s males a humbling reminder of precisely the place they stand within the pecking order simply six months out from a World Cup.
As a reminder, France aren’t even the very best crew on this Six Nations. That distinction belongs to Eire and, as luck would have it, England head to Dublin subsequent week to spherical off their marketing campaign. Get your calculators on the prepared – based mostly on this efficiency, that 76-0 defeat to Australia on the ‘tour from hell’ in 1998 is perhaps below risk.
England have been shambolic, as their opponents dominated each aspect of the sport and scored seemingly at will. Any credit score Borthwick had constructed up as an ex-England captain, with a powerful teaching CV early in his profession and because the supreme, easy man to observe the drama of the unpopular Eddie Jones period has probably been extinguished. He might want to discover solutions, and quick, as a result of one other show like this and the knives will quickly be out.
The gray, dreary skies mirrored England’s efficiency and, have been this an English GCSE essay, the chance to say the rain that lashed down at Twickenham was a type of pathetic fallacy that mirrored England’s temper can be too good to show down. Actually, the positives of the earlier two video games have been washed away in a horror first half.
Full again Freddie Steward was the one Englishman to emerge with any credit score from the opening stanza, as a few booming kicks helped clear early stress, and the attempt he scored within the second half after a robust carry was not more than his efficiency deserved. Nonetheless, as if to sum up the futility of England’s day, even he was outjumped by Romain Ntamack within the build-up to a different France attempt later within the second 40.
Whereas the pre-match speak was over Borthwick’s resolution to start out Marcus Smith at fly half as a substitute of Owen Farrell, the England coach is unlikely to be any nearer to figuring out whether or not that is the optimum set-up shifting ahead. The Harlequins playmaker confirmed the flashes of athleticism we’ve come to anticipate, with a few half-breaks and shimmies previous French defenders providing tantalising glimpses of what his explosive skillset may present in something resembling a functioning assault.
As an alternative, England have been merely unable to get out of their very own means because the limpest of first-half performances ensured the sport was over as a contest by the 40-minute mark. It wouldn’t have mattered whether or not Smith, Farrell or a major Jonny Wilkinson was within the No 10 jersey, nobody may have marshalled this shambolic model of England to a successful show.
The English pack have been persistently dominated from minute one. Take nothing away from the French again row of Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon and Gregory Alldritt, who have been all very good, however they confronted minimal resistance as the house forwards folded.
Ollivon was instrumental within the first attempt, with simply three minutes on the clock, as his fast break and opulent offload to Thibaud Flament finally allowed Ethan Dumortier to attract the ultimate defender and ship Thomas Ramos for a easy run-in.
The second and third scores noticed all of them mix as, firstly – following Antoine Dupont’s beautiful 50:22 field kick that gave his facet an attacking lineout – the pack mauled their means ahead and allowed Flament to burrow over. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Les Bleus’ scrum splintered England’s entrance row, Alldritt had an acre of room down the blindside and he offloaded to Ollivon for the attempt. The 27-3 deficit England confronted on the break was their largest within the 117-year historical past of this fixture. If England hoped that might be the nadir, they have been sorely mistaken.
Alldritt and Cros particularly made mincemeat of the opposition on the breakdown, successful ruck penalty after ruck penalty as they bought excessive of the ball a lot faster than their English counterparts.
With a pack shifting backwards, England had little high quality ball however after they did, the backs invariably squandered it. Because the rain poured and circumstances grew to become slippery, knock-ons have been a depressingly common sight. Anthony Watson spilled a excessive ball simply exterior his personal 22, Jack van Poortvliet fumbled forwards on the breakdown on a number of events and a gifted 22 entry after a blocked kick was instantly knocked on.
Van Poortvliet – requested to play the position that Danny Care does for Harlequins with a view to unlock Smith’s full potential – continued his sub-par Six Nations. A sliced field kick straight up within the air on quarter-hour deep in his personal half after he demanded gamers be part of the ruck to type the protecting caterpillar summed up the dearth of invention and error-strewn nature of his show.
He was hooked by Borthwick simply 5 minutes into the second half and in a merciless coincidence, his substitute Alex Mitchell instantly popped the ball completely to a marauding Steward for England’s solely attempt. The lone shiny spot on the darkest of days. His outdated membership coach Borthwick rightly has religion within the gifted younger No 9 however Van Poortvliet’s current performances recommend Mitchell will probably be beginning the finale in opposition to Eire.
Not that Steward’s rating signalled any type of turnaround. As an alternative, Flament went over for his second attempt, Ollivon well grounded the ball after England have been pushed again over their very own line and Damian Penaud twice marauded clear down the fitting by way of questionable tackling to take the rating above 50 and full the humiliation.
The disarray that England discovered themselves in was neatly summed up when, with no match backs left, back-up hooker Jack Walker was compelled to come back on for centre Ollie Lawrence halfway by way of the second half. No 8 Alex Dombrandt shifted into the back-line, taking part in as a type of winger. He was the person who missed a sort out on Penaud for the French flyer’s first rating but when it’s a coach’s job to place his gamers ready to succeed, then Cimbrandt can rightly be pissed off with Borthwick. One thing has gone badly improper when he’s left one on one out large with one of the prolific wingers in world rugby.
It felt nearly unfair that this was Ellis Genge’s debut as captain – a everlasting black mark on his worldwide profession that, honestly, wasn’t actually his fault. There was little he may do to cease the tidal wave of embarrassment and his administration of referee Ben O’Keefe was usually good. Even probably the most nit-picky of critics who say England ought to have kicked the factors when 10-0 down early on, somewhat than going to the nook and spurning the possibility, must admit it was irrelevant within the last reckoning.
The place England go from right here – who is aware of? Nicely, the literal reply is to Dublin to face the unstoppable power of the No 1 crew on the earth in seven days’ time however a lot larger philosophical questions loom and it’s laborious to have religion that they’ve the solutions.