But France never recovered from the hammer blow of Ben Foden's try shortly after the break.
"I am really disappointed for the players," he said. "We knew at half-time it was going to be a very tough and close game, but we made a bad start to the second half, and that was the key.
"The first half was very balanced, but we remained very fragile.
"It was very difficult to come back and score again. We had to score twice, and England were fitter than us.
"They are a very good team, but they only won 17-9, and still have a step to go to improve their rugby."