Owen Farrell admits England’s players are reeling from the nature of their Guinness Six Nations capitulation to France that has engulfed Twickenham in crisis.
England were overrun 53-10 in their biggest home defeat of all time and third heaviest loss at any venue, shattering the optimism that accompanied the start of Steve Borthwick’s reign as head coach.
Worryingly for Borthwick, his team were pulverised in contact as the gravest of a host of failings on a day that will rank among the worst in the nation’s 152-year rugby history.
Many fans streamed out of Twickenham long before the final whistle while others booed in reaction to seeing England register their eighth defeat in their last 16 Tests, a run that includes one draw.
“As an England player you never expect to be in this situation,” said Farrell, the red rose captain who replaced Henry Slade in the 46th minute.
“I don’t think you ever expect to lose like that at home as an England team. You don’t expect to lose like that anywhere as an England team.
“The result and the scoreline are hugely disappointing for us. It’s never nice. Most of the people in the changing room have been through it at some stage. Not normally with England – definitely not normally with England.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 12, 2023
“I’m gutted. Everybody in the changing room is disappointed to lose in the fashion that we did.”
Farrell’s demotion to the bench to accommodate Marcus Smith at fly-half dominated the build-up to ‘Le Crunch’ with the swashbuckling Harlequins ringmaster picked with the aim of exposing France’s perceived mobility deficit in the forwards.
But power took centre stage as England were bullied in the contact area throughout, rendering the identity of their number 10 irrelevant as the irresistible World Cup hosts plundered seven tries, some of them works of art.
“When you end up behind on the scoreboard and you’re chasing, sometimes things turn out like that,” Farrell said.
“I’m not sure it’s a true reflection of our team but credit to France for the way they played, they were clinical. They got away early on and it was hard for us to get back into the game.”
For England it is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as having been scattered across Twickenham by the side rated number two in the world, they must travel to Dublin to meet rankings kingpins Ireland.
Another Six Nations consisting of just two wins beckons and Borthwick faces the task of picking his players up off the canvas for the toughest assignment in international rugby.
“The end goal is not any different for us because we’ve got to improve and we knew that before this game. We definitely know it after. We have to improve together,” Farrell said.
“We think we can be a lot better. This will make us have a good look at ourselves and I imagine that after this everybody is champing at the bit to get going again.”