England assistant John Mitchell has insisted it is not all doom and gloom amid preparations for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations round four game with France following a disappointing February where defeats to Scotland and Wales sandwiched an average performance against Italy.     

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Those losses have left fourth-place England well off the pace in their title defence, trailing leaders Wales by eight points and second place France – who have a game in hand – by three.

Coming off the back of their much-criticised indisciplined surrender to the Welsh in Cardiff, where they fell away to lose by 16 points having drawn level with less than 20 minutes remaining, England will be on the back foot when they host the Grand Slam-chasing French.

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However, rather than feel they have nothing to play for with the title out of reach, Mitchell believes there is still much for England to gain in a match that is taking place 14 weeks after they needed extra-time to squeeze past a much understrength French XV in the Autumn Nations Cup decider.

“We have got a huge amount to play for because we want to find our best and we want to find our best performance,” said Mitchell when asked about the challenge of England picking up the March pieces following an unsatisfactory February.

“That is the great thing about the situation we are currently in, that we have got a great opportunity to find our best and you learn more from being in these situations and your belief you will find a way is the real positive thing about it. We haven’t found our best yet but we have an opportunity to find our best which is exciting,” he added about a fixture where many eyes will be on France’s Antoine Dupont.

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“The biggest lesson has been seen, has been acknowledged, that we need to improve our discipline. What is key to that is how we respond – some things we can control and some things we can’t. It’s a matter of what we can control. There is definitely greater awareness, there is an education around the area. Not for one minute do we want to stop playing on the edge and continue to be physical… but it’s important that we are a lot cleverer and smarter in the situations.

“It’s a feeling thing. It comes through connection, togetherness. We are working hard and it will come. There is no doubt about it. The timing will come because it is something we really enjoy and it is something we pride ourselves on so we are not going to throw away something that is really important to us and is ultimately a strength that we can bring week in, week out.”

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