France racked up seven tries to hammer sorry England 53-10 in the Six Nations, for England’s third-heaviest defeat in history.
Damian Penaud, Thibaud Flament and Charles Ollivon all bagged try braces, with Thomas Ramos also crossing. Freddie Steward offered England’s sole reply in an alarmingly poor performance from new head coach Borthwick’s side.
No one of an England persuasion expected such a thrashing, leaving Borthwick staring straight down the barrel of the size of the challenge to reverse his team’s fortunes.
“No one is under any illusions as to what we need to do, I think we’ve been pretty up front with that throughout,” said Borthwick. “We wanted to understand exactly how the development for this team has gone and where we’re at compared to the best teams in the world.
“We fell considerably short, that’s the stark reality. We’re incredibly disappointed with the performance. Immense credit must go to France for the power, pace and class they showed.
“But right now this game shows the size of the gap. The key element now is we know where we are, it shows just how much work there is to do here. I said we’d have a good understanding of where we’re at as a team after today, and you can see how much work we’ve got to do.”
Borthwick has been quite happy to lay out the scale of transformation he must pull off to reverse England’s ailing fortunes. From the moment he took the helm from Eddie Jones in December, he has laid bare the size of the challenge and quite how far England have slumped.
But not even Borthwick can reasonably have anticipated this capitulation. Asked to appraise how much worse this performance was than expected, he deflected the question.
“It doesn’t matter in those terms of what I thought, it only matters where we are,” said Borthwick. “When you lose the collision that badly in defence, give the opposition quick ball, allow them to offload, and then you lose the ball in attack as well, it’s extremely hard to get a foothold in the game.”
England will round off another underwhelming Six Nations with a daunting trip to face Ireland next weekend. After such a hefty loss to the world’s second-ranked team, here comes the world number one outfit.
That Dublin clash will prove England’s last competitive match before the autumn’s World Cup in France, and Borthwick insisted he will not relent in his bid to whip the team into the right shape.
“We’re going to apply ourselves in every way, shape and form to make sure we give our best efforts to that,” he added. “You saw their power, we had plans to mitigate that power advantage, but we didn’t execute them well enough, and we made errors that stopped our execution.
“They were so good they stopped us from doing what we wanted to do. We’ve got to go away and understand what went wrong and how we can be better in that challenge going forward.”