France coach Philippe Saint-Andre and his players agree that unless they stop giving their opponents double digit leads their hopes of the Six Nations title could be ended by defending champions England next Sunday.
Saint-Andre saw his dream of the Grand Slam in his first season in charge dashed by a classy Ireland side on Sunday as his side fought back to share the points in a 17-17 draw at the Stade de France.
However, for the second successive weekend the 44-year-old had to watch his players dig deep to force a result as, having trailed Scotland 0-10 before winning 23-17, they turned round against the Irish trailing 6-17 at half-time.
The draw - the first between the two sides since 1985 in Dublin when the French deprived their hosts of the then Five Nations Grand Slam - may have cost France the Grand Slam but wins at home to England and away to Wales would see them win the title.
But Saint-Andre said that spirit alone would not be enough for his team were they to gift the English a lead.
"I laud my players for the spirit they showed in coming back from that deficit but at this level you cannot consistently allow very good teams such as the Irish a lead like that and come back every time," said Saint-Andre, who replaced Marc Lievremont after the 8-7 World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks.
French captain Thierry Dusautoir said he was painfully aware of this bad habit.
"I don't think one can compare the slow starts we have had in our three matches so far this season," said the 31-year-old Ivory Coast-born flank, who was named world player of the year after an outstanding World Cup.
"We are aware of this habit of starting slowly and we are searching for a solution....we have been for quite a while.
"Still we have to work on it because it is clear those early points we gave away against the Irish cost us the game."
France wing Julien Malzieu conceded that the failure to hit the ground running was becoming deeply frustrating.
"When you see that yet again against the run of play we concede points and then we show our real face in coming back from an 11-point deficit against a valiant Irish side, it is frustrating," said the 28-year-old.
"It is imperative we find a solution to this because I am not sure that either against the English or the Welsh we would have the capacity to get back on equal terms.
"Mathematically, we are still on course for victory [the title].
"If, however, we continue down this road in giving away early points, we will see those title hopes come to a juddering halt next weekend."
His Clermont team-mate Aurelien Rougerie - whose long pass deep inside French territory was intercepted by Tommy Bowe for his and the visitors' first of two tries - said there was no need for either knee-jerk reactions or alarm bells to be ringing.
"It is only the third game of the Saint-Andre era," said the 31-year-old, who was winning his 74th cap.
"There is no rush, all we need is time. And it is clear to everyone that this side has a soul.
"I prefer in any case to draw with the best sides than to win by 50 points against the worst ones.
"It is only through tight games like these which will see us make progress."
Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra said they should put the draw to the back of their minds and forget about what might have been with regard to the Grand Slam.
"We were targeting a Grand Slam in a fortnight in Wales but now instead we are going to try and win the title," said Parra, whose 12 points with the boot contributed largely to forcing the draw.
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