England will stay on the edge but be smarter, says John Mitchell

When England played France in the 1990s the basic game plan was to light the blue touchpaper then sit back and wait for the French to implode. On Saturday it will be Eddie Jones’s misfiring team desperately trying to keep their discipline.

The countries meet at Twickenham in a match that was initially widely seen as the probable championship decider and though France, with two wins out of two, are still very much in the hunt, England are trying to pick up the pieces of their title defence after two defeats from their three games.

High on the agenda for stopping the rot will be finding a way to cut out the penalties that have hurt them so badly in all areas. They have conceded a massive 41 so far, with lock Maro Itoje the tournament’s worst offender with 10 to his name.

It is an issue that assistant coach John Mitchell accepted needed addressing.

“The biggest lesson has been acknowledged, and seen – we need to sort out our discipline. We need more care around that area and it’s important that we are a lot cleverer and smarter in certain situations,” said Mitchell.

“What is key to that is how we respond. Some things we can control and some things we can’t, so its a matter of what we can control.”

Mitchell said there was a fine line between a smart play and falling foul of the referee and that England, though conscious of the risk, would continue to push the boundaries.

“There is greater awareness and education around the area but not for one minute do we want to stop playing on the edge and continue to be as physical as we are,” he said.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to find our best and I think you learn more from these situations and the ability to find a way, that is the real positive thing about it.

“It’s a feeling thing. It comes through connection and togetherness. We are working hard and it will come. There’s no doubt about it, the timing will come.”

England fans will hope it comes sooner rather than later as they seek to extend their Twickenham winning streak over the French to eight games.

Both head coaches will name their teams on Thursday.

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