Eddie Jones’ future will be decided by a “brutally honest analysis” of England’s dismal Six Nations performance with the Rugby Football Union declining to give him unequivocal support ahead of its tournament review.
The second fifth-place finish of the Jones era has placed the Australian’s position under intense scrutiny as a panel overseen by RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney begins the process of reviewing a failed campaign with its verdict due in mid-April.
Losses to Scotland, Wales and Ireland condemned England to their worst Six Nations performance on the grounds of points difference and Sweeney stated that “it’s important to stress that Eddie’s not in denial”.
England entered the tournament as champions after compiling an eight-Test winning run, but apart from a magnificent round four victory over France they have looked a shadow of the team that reached the final of the 2019 World Cup.
When asked if Jones or his assistants could be sacked as a result of recent performances, Sweeney said: “I don’t think I could honestly answer that one.
“It needs to be a thorough, brutally honest analysis of what went wrong and why and what the issues are.
“I spoke to him on Sunday. He’s as disappointed as we are. He’s hugely competitive and we will do this debriefing session together as a panel and see what we learn from it.
“Eddie’s massively competitive and hugely disappointed. You would expect that. He is equally frustrated at the inconsistency of the performance against France and a week later you have a performance against Ireland which is very disappointing.
“I know it is fine margins but to come away with a loss there when things are looking back to the way we were performing against Ireland in the autumn and the World Cup…
“We need to get to the facts of it. We need to lift the hood up, have a look in there and say are we headed in the right direction?”
Counting in Jones’ favour is a win ratio of 77 per cent – the highest of any England head coach – with the 61-year-old entering his sixth year at the helm.
“I think you have to recognise and respect Eddie’s achievement since he’s been here – three Six Nations titles, a Grand Slam, a World Cup final. That’s a tremendous performance,” Sweeney said.
“His record against southern hemisphere teams is also terrific. But he wants to understand this as much as anybody.
“I think it’s really important at this stage we apply a bit of good old English calm, if you like. We have to react. You can’t just do nothing. And we won’t do nothing. But at the same time it’s important we don’t overreact.”
Sweeney addressed the widely-held view recently given voice by Sir Clive Woodward that Jones is unchallenged at Twickenham.
“I would say that’s wrong. That’s absolutely not the case. I know some people feel that’s the perception, but he doesn’t have power and influence within Twickenham,” Sweeney said.
“There is accountability there. I mean look at it now – there is massive accountability at the moment. But you have also got to allow your head coach to get on and do what he has to do.
“To think he is totally on an island by himself, no accountability, there is no interaction…it’s honestly just not the case.”
In the build-up to Saturday’s rout by Ireland, Jones accused the media of spreading “rat poison” in the minds of his players, which he then has to remove.
“I didn’t like that. I don’t think anyone welcomes that. That doesn’t really help the cause. And we have had a chat about it,” Sweeney said.