The gravest concern arising from Saturday’s 25-20 defeat in Paris was the manner in which the pack – for so long a source of English strength – was bullied by Les Bleus for a second successive week.
And one of the worst performances of Stuart Lancaster’s reign as head coach has also confused selection with No 8, fly-half and hooker under scrutiny as the August 31 cut off point for naming the World Cup squad draws near.
Late tries from Danny Cipriani and Jonathan Joseph flattered England and alarm bells are ringing with one warm-up game remaining before Fiji visit Twickenham in the tournament opener on September 18.
Chris Robshaw, who returned as captain after missing the previous Saturday’s narrow win over France, rounded on the shortcomings that enabled France to seize a 15-6 interval lead.
“We lost our discipline. In the first half we were shocking with our discipline,” he said.
“Myself and the other boys just gave too many penalties away and it left us with a lot to do in the second half.
“Credit to everyone because we played well in the second half and you saw it was all or nothing. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get over the line.
“But you can’t give away a head start like that and allow quality teams like France the chance to get away.
“By our standards it wasn’t good enough and we’ve got a big two weeks before we play Ireland. There’s a lot to work on.”
The visit of Joe Schmidt’s RBS Six Nations champions to Twickenham on September 5 has become a match England dare not lose.
“We’re two weeks away from Ireland and four weeks away from Fiji. I’ll expect a reaction next time we play,” Lancaster said. “It was certainly a disappointing first half, to put it mildly. I was in a lot better mood by the end, but the first 60 minutes weren’t good enough by international standards and the boys know that.
“I was pleased with the way we came back at the end and to be pushing to win the game was great, but it was too little too late really.”