Six Nations: 'Ireland & England differences illuminated by final moments v France'

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Six Nations: France 22-16 England highlights

There are many points of difference between this year's Six Nations champions Ireland and the title winners of the last two, England, not least the nine in the current championship table.

But if you want it encapsulated in a frozen moment, it is there in the last moments of two matches at the Stade de France.

Ireland are a score down against France with the clock red. They work through 41 error-free phases, clinging to the lifeline under immense pressure, keeping the panic at bay, before Johnny Sexton lands a drop-goal from the very edge of possibility to steal the game away.

Five weeks later, England need a converted try to pull off greater larceny yet. France are close to out on their feet. Their supporters are panicking. England lose one precious line-out five metres out, and then are gifted another. A few phases later, they are 40 metres closer to the French tryline than Ireland ever were. And they lose the ball.

One side now sits a game away from only a third Grand Slam in their history. The other is lurching into something that if it isn't quite a crisis, is starting to look rather like one.

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Six Nations 2018: Ireland 28-8 Scotland highlights

These habits are not happy accidents. In this championship Ireland have now garnered 24 points when time has been up - those fateful three in Paris, 14 against Wales, seven more as they sealed the title against Scotland.

England were like this too not so long ago. They won in Cardiff a year ago through an Elliot Daly try four minutes from the end, forged from icy nerves and a perfect pass apiece from Owen Farrell and George Ford.

They had beaten France by three points a week further back, having been tied at 9-9 at half-time, just as they were this weekend, thanks to a poacher's try from Ben Te'o with only 10 minutes left on the clock.

Now? Now the problems are piling up. Successive defeats, two in the same Six Nations for the first time since the unlamented days of 2010, three in five in this old tournament if you include Ireland's demolition of their Grand Slam dreams in Dublin last March.

This is not a great French side. It is not even a very good side playing well, as it was when England lost here in Paris eight years ago as Les Bleus won their last Grand Slam.

It is a team in permanent transition that only a fortnight ago won its first game in a year, who as recently as November were a conversion away from losing to Japan.

Even after taking control against England on Saturday evening they almost let it slip, 10 points up and sailing only to suddenly take on water, Lionel Beauxis doing the most Lionel Beauxis thing ever and failing to find touch with a kick with which a 10-year-old could have ended the match, to hand England a second life raft.

England stats against France

The home set-piece was a mess. They lost five of their 11 line-outs and two of their six scrums. And yet they were comfortably the better side until the last 15 minutes, because England had problems of their own that were both familiar and familiarly impossible to fix.

A fortnight after being turned over 10 times by Scotland, they were turned over nine times by a French side without the same back-row reputation. Thirteen missed tackles in the first half alone in Edinburgh, 16 in the match in Paris. Thirteen penalties conceded then, 16 here.

"If you don't have power, it's very hard to get momentum," Eddie Jones told BBC Radio 5 live afterwards. "Power is force times mass, and it's how quickly you can accelerate it."

If you could forgive him the mangling of Newton's Second Law of Motion, given what his team had just put him through, he may have been better focusing on Law 15 of the game of rugby union, which concerns itself with the ruck.

Never before have England been penalised as many times under Jones. For all the numbers, for all the talk of lessons learned and improvements to come, it is hard to avoid a straightforward conclusion: England's breakdown has broken down.

England's stats against Scotland
England lost the battle of the breakdown at Murrayfield, with Scotland flanker and captain John Barclay claiming three of his side's 10 turnovers on Saturday

So has their attacking strategy. England have a forwards coach (Steve Borthwick), a defence coach (Paul Gustard) and a scrum coach, in Neil Hatley. They do not have a specialist attack coach, Jones preferring to look after that area himself. It may be starting to show.

Too often in Paris they were predictable, the big ball-carriers trundling straight into contact, the pace of the back three of Daly, Anthony Watson and Jonny May only occasionally utilised until the very end. Fly-half George Ford hardly featured.

Only two games ago England were on a run of 24 wins from 25 matches under Jones. They have won a Grand Slam and another title under his stewardship, and whitewashed the Wallabies on their home patch.

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Six Nations 2018: England's indiscipline decisive in France loss

But that is now just 12 points scored against Wales, 13 against Scotland, 16 against France. In the same three match-ups Ireland have scored 80, almost twice as many.

And there are other issues piling up too: a lack of leadership on the pitch, an inability to adapt to the varying interpretations of different referees, a problem converting chances. Even before the late Jonny May try that brought England back into it, another great chance had been tossed away by a Te'o pass that forced Daly to stop and reach high above his head.

Jones, hypercritical of himself as well as any team he coaches, knows all this. He will have faith in himself that he can stop the stall before it becomes a tailspin.

There are 18 months to go until England meet France in the group stages of the World Cup. There is time, there is expertise, and there are plentiful resources.

There may also be a little doubt. Jones has often got quick improvements from teams he has taken over. He hasn't always been able to sustain it. There is a reason why he has never lasted more than four years in one job.

Small moments, big differences, different directions.

Six Nations table as it stand
Ireland have an unassailable nine-point lead with one round still to play