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'Abysmal': England panned as Clive Woodward insists 'it's not that big of a gap'

By Ian Cameron
Marcus Smith of England looks dejected following the team's defeat in the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on March 11, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England’s Guinness Six Nations took a shocking turn as they were completely outplayed by France at Twickenham, losing by a record-breaking 53-10 scoreline at the home of English rugby.


The home side’s attack was largely impotent throughout the 80 minutes, suggesting head coach Steve Borthwick’s controversial decision to drop Owen Farrell to the bench for the match didn’t pay off. The men in white failed to produce much of anything in attack, with handling errors in the wet and a complete failure to compete at the breakdown costing them dearly. The French, on the other hand, were clinical and efficient, at times seeming to score at will.

The defeat was particularly bitter for England as it marked their worst home defeat to France in Six Nations history, and it seems to be a clear indication that the team was in disarray.

No doubt the pressure on Borthwick and his coaching staff is now mounting, just four games into his reign and it feels like a crisis again.

Commentator Nick Mullins put the record loss in context on Twitter, writing: “The biggest walloping England have ever taken at Twickenham. Their third worst anywhere. France reminding us of the joy they can play this game with. A game we’ll never, ever forget.”

“I’m a bit in shock watching this at the moment,” said a flabbergasted Clive Woodward on ITV at halftime. “We have just been outplayed, at 1-8 especially. The French forward pack is so powerful and athletic, so good with the ball in hand… That surprised me. I thought the English players would be a lot closer. I thought we would struggle to win this game today, but I thought we would be close.

At full-time that shock had turned to optimism, with Woodward even suggesting the gap between the teams wasn’t that great. “It happens. England were never going to win that game today, there were second by a long, long way. It’s not that big of a gap.


“England have now got to go and play Ireland next week, that’s a sobering thought… The mentality of our team is not the same as the French team. That’s down to Galthie, there’s no doubt about that… It’s a sobering day, no doubts about that. I was coaching a team in Australia when we lost by 70-odd points, but that a second or third team. To actually see this in a Six Nations game, I never thought I would ever see that scoreboard at Twickenham.”

Former Ireland fullback Rob Kearney laid into England on Irish television.

“England have been dreadful,” said Rob Kearney on the Virgin Media 1 panel. “No ambition. They don’t want to play any rugby… For England at home to be down 27 points to 3 [at halftime] is pretty abysmal.”

The loss might well raise a smile for former England head coach Eddie Jones, who was fired in late 2022. Now Wallabies head coach, Jones had faced criticism during his time in charge, yet it seems to have gone form bad to worse under Borthwick.


Former England flyhalf Andy Goode, however, believes that some of the liability still lay with Jones: “Pants down, massive skids on show, who takes 50 at home, we do,” wrote Goode. “Awful day for England showing how far we’ve slipped under Eddie Jones and now how far behind we are under Borthwick.”



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lot 460 days ago

for woodhorse not to have seen this coming after screaming for EJ termination such a joke... we all saw it but not this so-called World cup coach? we all saw how dangerous it will be near a world cup to appoint a rookie international coach so near world cup, we all saw these rubbish players elevated.. humiliated new captain.... lucky for owen.... he wasn't captain on this humiliation.. 😏

finn 460 days ago

This would never have happened under Jones

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