February 10, 2019 / 7:55 PM / 8 months ago

Rugby-Rudderless France ruthlessly exposed again

LONDON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - A year ago France beat free-falling England 22-16 in Paris but since then Eddie Jones’s team have rediscovered their form while that result looks an aberration for a team looking more rudderless with every passing week.

Sunday’s 44-8 loss at Twickenham was France’s heaviest at the hands of their keenest rivals for over 100 years and continued a dire run that has seen them lose 15 of their last 19 games.

They are down to 10th in the world rankings after Sunday’s loss followed their opening home defeat by Wales, a first Six Nations title for nine years is already out of reach and there is precious little light at the end of the tunnel.

“We got spanked,” said lock Arthur Iturria, accurately summing up another day to forget a week after France blew a 16-0 halftime lead to lose at home to Wales.

“They were stronger and we have to work hard to get to that level. Scotland will come to beat us, like everybody does now.”

France host the Scots in two weeks when their 20-year, 10-game winning streak against them will be seriously under threat. Amazingly, Scotland have won in Paris only twice in the last 50 years but will fancy their chances - especially if they can muster a kick and chase game anything like England’s.

“England put us under pressure throughout the game and we just could not deal with it,” said coach Jacques Brunel, who has singularly failed to spark any sort of French revival since replacing Guy Noves at the start of last year, winning three and losing 10 of his 13 games in charge amid the usual unfathomable selection merry-go-round.

“The same thing happened throughout the game. They had an excellent kicking game and took advantage of the space. We have to accept that England were stronger than us today. We could not respond to a recurring situation in the first half.”

Captain Guilhem Guirado said: “It was very, very disappointing today. We were under pressure throughout the game. It was very painful conceding try after try and their kicking game kept them ahead.”

France will face England again, and Argentina, in the pool stage of the World Cup later this year, but Brunel said conclusions should not be drawn from Sunday’s setback.

“Conditions will be different in Japan,” he said, with a hint of desperation that will bring little solace to the country’s long-suffering supporters. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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