They won 19-16 at Twickenham on Saturday to register a 15th successive Test victory, surpassing Sir Clive Woodward’s World Cup winners to set a new national record, but it was the worst performance of Eddie Jones’ reign. Only the final-quarter arrival of reinforcements from a high-quality bench swept the game out of France’s reach, with James Haskell, Jack Nowell and Ben Te’o heavily involved in the decisive 71st-minute try.
England were subdued in the first half, proving far too passive as Les Bleus justified talk of their resurgence after years of decline, but struck through Te’o to keep their Grand Slam defence intact.
“It’s great to get the campaign off to a win but there’s lots to improve,” Brown said. “It was a bit scrappy at times and we didn’t do what we set out to do, but a win is a win. If we were looking for excuses we might say it was our first game, but we’re not a team to do that. We didn’t put out on the pitch what we wanted.
“All credit to France because they really disrupted our breakdown and then that has a knock-on effect on everything else. We weren’t physical enough. There’s lots to work on.”
Before the match, Jones declared that England had the best bench in world rugby and there is evidence that he might be right. Danny Care arrived at scrum-half to provide greater urgency, before bludgeoning runs from Haskell, Nowell and Te’o overpowered Guy Noves’ men, with Te’o’s speed and running line finally piercing the defence.
“Eddie always talks about it being a 23-man squad. He doesn’t call them substitutes, he calls them finishers,” Brown said. “They’re there to finish the game and they did an outstanding job.”
England were also forced to adapt to losing Jonny May to the sin-bin inside the first quarter after he tipped Gael Fickou over the horizontal. “We had another yellow card situation to fix, we went behind which we needed to fix, but that’s why we work hard in training,” Brown said.