Eddie Jones insists England are negotiating an inevitable slump where the "game does not love you" after France handed Ireland the Six Nations rugby title by prevailing 22-16 over his team in Paris.
England surrendered the crown they have held for the past two years with a second successive defeat, a fortnight after falling to Scotland. Yesterday's result, following Ireland's 28-8 win over the Scots in Dublin, secured the title for Ireland, who will chase a Grand Slam at Twickenham.
The breakdown, exposed at Murrayfield, was a fault line once more but even more alarming were the 16 penalties that saw them whistled out of contention by South African referee Jaco Peyper.
"It's just a tough period for us. We are always going to go through this at some stage," England boss Jones said. "Any team that is developing, as we are, goes through tough periods where the game does not love you.
"If the game loves us, then we might have won against France, but we didn't get bounce of ball, we didn't get the 50/50 decisions and we are in the losers' chair and it is not a very happy place."
It was the third defeat of Jones' 27 tests in charge and the Australian called for a sense of perspective while England address their slump.
"I don't think we should get too carried away or too melodramatic about where we are," he said. "We are a rugby team and no rugby team has an aura of invincibility about them.
"Every team is fallible and every team has a weakness and certain strengths and, at the moment, teams are outplaying us in certain areas of the game and we have to learn from it."
Maxime Machenaud converted four penalties and replacement first five-eighth Lionel Beauxis added another for the French, who were awarded a penalty try to break a 9-9 deadlock in the 49th minute.
It was the Tricolors' first win over England in four years in the championship, and a welcome respite. Just last month, they had gone eight matches without a win.
"I wanted the team to be close to the best during the tournament," France coach Jacques Brunel said. "We came close against Ireland, and this time, things turned out well for us. On both occasions, we were there."
The Grand Slam is on for Ireland on St Patrick's Day. The Irish stayed undefeated with a four-try bonus point at Lansdowne Road. It is Ireland's third championship in five years.
But the bigger prize would be beating England next Sunday (NZT) for Ireland to earn only a third Grand Slam, beside those in 1948 and 2009.
"We're going to have to save the best for last, and that's what it's going to take to win everything next week," Ireland captain Rory Best said.
"Everyone knows the size of the challenge. They haven't lost at Twickenham under Eddie Jones."
Scotland had their chances but weren't as accurate, and butchered at least two tries.
The bonus-point fourth try came with 11 minutes to go, when hooker Sean Cronin, only three minutes after replacing Best, dived over from the back of a rolling maul.
"We've a lot of big leaders," Best said. "At times when we were under pressure and they were trying to play chaotic rugby, we were able to get a breath back and get control through the spine of our team."