England head coach Stuart Lancaster was proud of the way his side fought back from a 16-8 half-time deficit in their 6 Nations opener away to France, even though they could not hold on for victory.
England endured a heartbreaking 26-24 defeat at the Stade de France as home substitute Gael Fickou struck with a late try that Maxime Machenaud converted to snatch the win.
Having drawn on their reserves of character to overcome a 16-3 deficit built on two opening-quarter tries from wing Yoann Huget, the visitors looked comfortable as they established a 24-19 lead.
But Fickou scored a superb try courtesy of some dazzling footwork to shatter Lancaster's side.
"At the start we put ourselves into a bit of a hole,” Lancaster told BBC Radio Five Live. "But I thought the boys showed incredible character, resilience and a lot of skill to put ourselves in a position to win it. But a bit of French flair at the end and they got the win."
"I thought our young players learned a lot today and I'm very proud of them" - Stuart Lancaster
England endured a wretched start as they slipped behind with just 31 seconds on the clock following a try from Huget, who added a second before the break - with two penalties from Jean-Marc Doussain.
Owen Farrell hit back with a penalty in the first quarter before Mike Brown scored his first try for England in his 22nd game for his country seven minutes before the interval.
In the second half, Farrell narrowed the deficit with a penalty before debutant Luther Burrell went over for their second try and Saracens fly-half Farrell put them ahead for the first time with the conversion.
Danny Care put England 21-16 clear with a drop-goal after 57 minutes before Machenaud and Alex Goode exchanged penalties, but France struck back with five minutes to go with a try from Fickou, and Machenaud added the goal to make it 26-24.
Lancaster refused to be downcast and said his side can take some positives out of the game.
Wing Jack Nowell and centre Burrell made their England debuts, while Jonny May won his second cap on the left wing in an inexperienced backline and Lancaster was impressed with his youngsters.
“It was a good place to come and the crowd's up and I thought our young players learned a lot today and I'm very proud of them."
Read Tadhg Peavoy's preview of Ireland vs Scotland here.
Coverage of Ireland's RBS 6 Nations game against Scotland from 14:00 Sunday 2 February on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Ireland only).
Live radio coverage Sunday Sport (14:00) on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).