The RFU is considering sacking Eddie Jones and replacing him with Steve Borthwick early next week, despite the head coach's insistence that he is the right man to lead England to the World Cup next year.
Jones, 62, will attend a crunch meeting with chief executive Bill Sweeney and the remainder of the review panel on Monday that will decide his fate ahead of a full board meeting on Tuesday.
Telegraph Sport understands Borthwick is the overwhelming first choice for the role should Jones depart, which is looking increasingly likely, with the Australian paying the price for a dismal autumn that featured defeats to Argentina and South Africa and a last-gasp draw with New Zealand.
Jones has spent all week on a reconnaissance mission in France preparing for next year's tournament and sources close to him insist he remains determined to continue his tenure, saying that they have never seen Jones more motivated and that he wants to finish the job.
Having led England since 2015, Jones was always due to leave Twickenham once his contract runs out in October 2023. Borthwick was widely predicted to take over after that having served his international apprenticeship under Jones and most recently impressed as head coach of Leicester.
It is not the first time Jones has faced down calls to be sacked, or been forced to present his strategy to the same review panel that will once again determine his fate.
Gatland not yet contacted by RFU
The RFU announced last Sunday that a two-week review would be conducted by a panel which includes board and executive members along with independent, former players and coaches. However, the meeting with Jones has now been brought forward with the Six Nations just nine weeks away.
Jones in the past has travelled to Japan after the autumn internationals to continue his consultancy role with Suntory Sungoliath, having advised the Japanese side for over 20 years. The new Japan Rugby League One season gets underway in mid-December, but Suntory have informed Telegraph Sport they are unsure of when Jones will arrive.
“There is a possibility of him coming to Japan, but nothing has been decided," said a spokesperson for Suntory.
Other big names who have been linked with the role include Warren Gatland, the former Wales and British and Irish Lions coach, potentially offering a senior counsel alongside Borthwick, although there has been no contact from the RFU.
One of the other contenders to replace Jones, La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara, ruled themselves out of contention. Writing in his column in the Irish Examiner, O'Gara said that he informed the RFU on Wednesday that he no longer wished to be in the running for the role. Reports in France this week have suggested that O'Gara is set to sign a new contract with La Rochelle.
"I had contact from the RFU. It’s England. If you get offered a gig like that – and I wasn’t, to be accurate – then you have to give it due consideration until such time as someone else gets the job or you officially eliminate yourself from the race. That was done in a very amicable conversation this week, ‘I’m not sure if I am making your job easier or harder, but... etc etc’. No hard feelings, we may meet again."
O'Gara noted that the current assumption is that the RFU will move to appoint Jones' long-term successor following this year's Six Nations.
"Events may dictate otherwise, but the sense is that the RFU will be making their moves after the Six Nations, and there was no good reason to delay my own situation in La Rochelle and mess our president, Vincent Merling around. That’s why I asked the RFU to remove me from any putative list of head coach options."