Six Nations Championship

Stopping Ireland no motivation for ‘critical’ England after France loss continues their miserable Six Nations run

England put in a second successive poor performance in a 22-16 defeat to France that handed Ireland a third Six Nations title in five years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 12:06pm

England hooker Jamie George said his team will be motivated to fix their own problems rather than stop Ireland winning the grand slam next weekend.

England put in a second successive poor performance in a 22-16 defeat to France on Saturday that handed Ireland a third Six Nations title in five years.

And should Joe Schmidt’s side win at Twickenham next weekend, they would complete only their second grand slam in the Six Nations era and third overall.

But George said last year’s champions are more concerned with sorting out their own deficiencies than putting a blot on Ireland’s copybook.

“I don’t think it will be about Ireland, we’ve got to put some things right and have a good hard look at ourselves in terms of where we’re at and what learnings we can take from the last two weeks,” said George, whose side also lost 25-13 to Scotland in their previous game.

“That’s going to be our motivation, and making sure we put on the right performance and learn from the things that we’ve learnt the last couple of weeks and fix the problems that we have.

“That’s the important thing for us and if that means we put in a good performance and stop Ireland – we just want to win that game.”

Fellow forward James Haskell, who made his first England appearance in a year, said winning was enough of a reward in itself not to worry about who it comes against.

“I’ve said this before: I don’t really care about who I’m playing, it’s more about the winning side,” he said.

“People say: ‘you must want to do this, you must want to do that’, it’s not really about that, it’s about winning in the shirt.

“We’ve had the luxury of doing that for a while now and we haven’t these last two weeks. It’s just important that we go to Twickenham and play how we want to play and show an improvement – that’s all that matters.”

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A lot has been made about England’s breakdown issues in the last two matches and a penalty count that reached 16 against France gave a strong indication of where Eddie Jones’s team had struggled most.

But as well as winning three times as many turnovers, France beat more than twice as many defenders and made 60 more metres, five line breaks to two and 13 offloads to five.

England’s attack simply didn’t match France’s and that showed in the breakdown.

“The impact of our attack definitely has an effect on how effective we are at the breakdown,” admitted George.

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“We didn’t help ourselves in terms of the way we carried the ball. We need to get momentum because if you’re carrying into a brick wall, it’s pretty easy (for the opposition) to get over the ball.”

Haskell, though, insisted the lines between success and failure remain fine -- Ireland wouldn’t even be on the brink of a Grand Slam but for a last-ditch, long-range drop goal from Johnny Sexton to win their opening match against France.

England, on the other hand, were a metre from the French line on the last play of their game but coughed up the ball.

“I don’t know what the answer is other than to just go away and be very critical of ourselves, be very harsh on ourselves,” said back-rower Haskell.

“We’ve got to learn, we’ve got to improve. At international level, whatever the scores are this week and last week, it’s a five per cent difference that will be the telltale sign between a victory and a loss.

“I think we were probably five per cent off last week and three per cent off this week -- that cost us.

“This will be the test of the team.”