England suffered their second defeat in a row after losing to Scotland last week and Les Bleus, who had lost nine of their last 11 Six Nations meetings against England in the Championship, prevailed through penalties by Maxime Machenaud (four) and Lionel Beauxis, and a penalty try by Benjamin Fall.
"We're gutted with the peformance and the result, but I think we showed a lot of character in the last 10 minutes".
There is no doubt that England will come out firing at Twickenham on Saturday after sobering defeats against Scotland and France. "At times we did hit some good holes and we got some good momentum and I thought we looked good, particularly at the end of the game".
"It's just a tough period for us".
"Up to this point I think beating Australia in the World Cup in 2011 is our greatest victory because of the context of that match but if we could beat England at Twickenham that would provide the most incredible springboard going forward to the 2019 World Cup".
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"For us, it's about dragging those young lads along", added Sexton. The lineout was a bit wobbly and the scrum as well. There's a lot of lads in the group that have played in massive, massive games and know how to go about a big matchweek. We've lost two games of rugby. "We were beaten at the breakdown, we gave away too many penalties, and when we had the momentum we didn't score, whereas they did". Skipper Guilhem Guirado said he was "proud" of the team's spirit.
"I told them that if we won it would open up new and positive things".
"It was a match of very high intensity but that's what sport's all about. We play Ireland next year in the Six Nations and we will play them in 18 months at the World Cup and we need to make sure we are a better team when we play them".
"We've tried to improve our performances week on week and its going to have to be the same again".
"Obviously I'm very disappointed".
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From that point France took control.
"At the breakdown, we had trouble".
"We will look back on it when we lift the trophy next weekend and say that was a huge moment", added the 32-year-old. We just didn't learn quick enough. There's no lack of effort. In the previous game, England were given a demonstration of effectiveness at the breakdown and it is said that the squad worked extensively on this area. We've got to fix it because that's the sort of rugby we're playing.
"It's very muted upstairs, it's a very unusual feeling to win the championship with a game to go and so much still to play for", Sexton said.
"I hope it is the former and that a few more strong words from Jones and some serious soul-searching will act as a corrective".
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"The breakdown is different and more contestable and there are different interpretations of the ruck being refereed", he said.