Mike Brown: Heavy work ahead for England after narrow victory over France
Mike Brown insists England face a week of toil as they seek to improve on a unconvincing start to their RBS 6 Nations title defence against France.
The reigning champions triumphed 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 work on and 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. We'd trained really well over the last two weeks, but just didn't do it.
"All credit to France because 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."
Jones declared in the build up to Six Nations opener that England possessed the best bench in world rugby and the evidence against France is 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 and it takes that effort to win matches. He doesn't call them substitutes, he calls them finishers," Brown said.
"They're there to finish the game whether we're winning or losing and they did an outstanding job.
"Care lifted the tempo, the forwards carried hard in attack and then Te'o dotted over for a winning try - it was great work from them."
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.
"We'd rather not have these situations but we do and that's the nature of sport - you have these situations, you react and you learn.
"It's great that we are fixing these problems, but we know our game didn't go so well."
England's next assignment is Saturday's trip to Cardiff, the setting for a stirring 21-16 victory over Wales in 2015 that saw Brown argue with officials in the tunnel shortly before kick-off after the team were instructed to run on to the pitch ahead of schedule.
"It's always a big game against Wales and it's an unbelievable atmosphere there. It will be a great game," Brown said.
"It's a great stadium, it's one of my favourite stadiums to play at, but in the Six Nations every away game is special."