PARIS, Feb 2 (Reuters) - 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 World Cup runners-up had fallen 24-0 behind and were too far from their usual high standards in the opening hour to secure victory 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 England 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 would 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 and if it’s right, we suck it up and get on with it.”
Jones thought France should be given more credit for their performance, especially scrumhalf Antoine Dupont.
“I don’t think we’re giving the French enough credit here, one of those games where France should be given credit,” he said.
The Stade de France crowd went into rapture after Ollivon scored both his tries as Les Bleus dominated England in a one-sided opening hour and Jones feared the result could have been worse.
“It was a game that could have been ugly for us, the crowd were going nuts,” he said.
England finally came into the match after the interval and two Jonny May tries showed their attacking threat.
“I’m disappointed, it was a tough match but we’re proud of the response we showed,” captain Owen Farrell said.
“But we should have been better in the first half and not let France get the momentum.” (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)