Brown unhappy with Italy, Scotland
Mike Brown reflects on England's latest RBS 6 Nations heartache by offering a scathing assessment of the contribution from Scotland and Italy on an enthralling final day.
The tanks were emptied in an evening of glorious mayhem at Twickenham but a breathless 55-35 victory over France was insufficient to dethrone Ireland as champions.
For a fourth successive year the 2015 World Cup hosts have finished runners-up and on points difference for each of the last three instalments of the competition, on this occasion falling short by less than a converted try.
A gloriously chaotic finale produced 12 tries, but the real damage had been done in Rome and Edinburgh where Wales and Ireland ran riot. It was the Irish who set the mammoth target of winning by 26 points that England pursued valiantly.
France's hopes of winning the title were remote at best but that did not stop them exploding into life at Twickenham, earning the respect of Brown whose view of the Six Nations' bottom two teams was less complimentary.
"Massive credit to the French for the way they fronted up for this game and for the way they played - compared to a few other countries," Brown said.
"Fair play to France - they played a game. I don't need to saying anything else. Everyone knows it.
"It was fast paced, end to end. We played good rugby, they played good rugby. France turned up and made a game of it.
"They could have easily folded, so it was great to see that from them from a spectator point of view."
An afternoon of captivating sporting theatre reached an unforgettable climax that produced two tries each for Ben Youngs and Jack Nowell and one apiece for Anthony Watson, George Ford and Billy Vunipola.
Twickenham witnessed twists and turns as play careered from end to end and the tone was set after just 95 seconds when Youngs opened the scoring. Among the many remarkable sights was veteran prop Vincent Debaty tracking wing Noa Nakaitaci for half the pitch to score one of France's five touch downs.
It ended with massed ranks of white shirts mounting a final assault on the whitewash with seconds remaining in search of the converted try that would secure the title, only for referee to Nigel Owens to blow for a dubious penalty.
Even then, in the final play of the game and trailing by 20 points, France tried to run the penalty from behind their own line, almost gifting their rivals one last opportunity.
"I was in the middle of that drive and I thought we were going forward. It was a maul," Brown said.
"I thought we were hard done by - we were going forward and it was brought down. It looked a bit dodgy to me.
"Fair play to France though, they were still playing at the end, so we got another chance."
Brown has been present for each of the four Six Nations near misses under head coach Stuart Lancaster and while frustrated to have fallen short once again, he insists England enter the home World Cup in a position of strength with their increasingly effective attack a source of pride.
"I'm gutted. It's tough to take at the moment obviously, but we have massive belief in the squad," Brown said.
"We're in great shape for the World Cup. Not many teams put that amount of points on a French side that hasn't conceded more than two tries previously in the tournament.
"Our attacking game has been brilliant all Championship and has come on leaps and bounds.
"We showed how dangerous we can be and hopefully we can take that into future games."