England’s performance during a dismal autumn has fallen below expectations, the Rugby Football Union has acknowledged.
In a statement that declined to give head coach Eddie Jones its backing, the RFU confirmed that a review panel will stage its customary inquest into the campaign and “how improvements can be made ahead of the Six Nations”.
“We would like to thank England fans for their patience and support, it matters to us how they feel,” chief executive Bill Sweeney said.
“Like them we are really disappointed with the results of the Autumn Nations Series. Despite strong individual performances and some great new talent coming into the team, the overall results are not where we expect them to be.”
Jones is back in the crosshairs after a comprehensive 27-13 defeat by South Africa on Saturday completed England’s worst year since 2008, taking the form of six defeats, five wins and a draw.
The autumn opened with a first loss to Argentina since 2008, continued with an emphatic victory over Japan and comeback draw against New Zealand before concluding with a rout by South Africa.
Since 2019 the RFU has conducted a review after every block of fixtures but declines to reveal who sits on the panel beyond stating that it includes “board and executive members along with independent, former players and coaches”.
However, in a departure from the unequivocal backing offered to Jones when the 2022 Six Nations ended in three defeats for the third time in five years, there is no mention of support for England’s head coach this time.
While Jones faces renewed scrutiny, he is not thought to be in danger of losing his job having been well backed by Sweeney in the past.
Jones’ eight-year reign is due to end after the 2023 World Cup with the RFU hoping to name his successor in May having reportedly drawn up a three-strong shortlist consisting of Steve Borthwick, Ronan O’Gara and Scott Robertson.
Sir Clive Woodward has led the criticism following the crushing defeat by South Africa, declaring that the result completed the “worst week in English rugby history”.
In echoes of the 2019 World Cup final, England failed to fire a shot and the bitter climax to the campaign came two days after rugby chiefs were accused of presiding over “failure on an epic scale” by MPs in response to the financial collapse of Worcester and Wasps.
“This was the worst week in English rugby history,” 2003 World Cup-winning coach Woodward told The Mail on Sunday.
“The game in this country is a total shambles and defeat to a South Africa side without nine of its best players showed it.
“When are the leading figures at the RFU going to wake up and realise English rugby is in trouble? Everything is not OK. Eddie Jones will be allowed to carry on as he likes yet again.
“I was lost for words watching the South Africa game. It was that bad. It was one of the most depressing games I’ve seen at HQ. The England team is miles off where it needs to be.
“I’ve never seen people booing at the final whistle at Twickenham before. It really, really hurts me to see and hear that. I hate it. But at the same time, it also reflects where England are at right now.”
Mike Brown, the nation’s most-capped full-back and a stalwart of Jones’ reign until 2018, believes his former head coach must be “held to account” during the review.
“I have stopped believing what comes out of Eddie Jones’ mouth. I’m hearing the same things over and over again,” Brown told The Mail on Sunday.