By Mitch Phillips
(Reuters) -Eddie Jones's roller-coaster ride as England coach came to an end on Tuesday when he was sacked by the Rugby Football Union following a review into their November series that ended with the team being booed off the pitch at Twickenham.
That rare supporter reaction to a comprehensive 27-13 defeat by a weakened South Africa - and Jones's subsequent comment that he did not care what anybody else thought - appears to have been the final straw for the anonymous panel that sat to review the tests, that also included defeat by Argentina, a draw against New Zealand and victory over Japan.
After announcing his dismissal, the governing body said: "The RFU will now conclude the long-term work it has been undertaking on coach succession planning with changes set to be announced in the near future. In the interim, (forwards coach) Richard Cockerill will take over the day to day running of the men's team."
England won only five of their 12 games in 2022 after a second-successive Six Nations where they lost three of their five games.
Yet Jones, 62, who led Australia to the 2003 World Cup final and Japan to their shock victory over South Africa in 2015, continued to insist they were on the right track for next year's global tournament, his number one, and seemingly only, priority.
Jones, who took over after England's group-stage exit from the 2015 tournament they hosted, had a contract until the end of next year's World Cup in France.
Despite the continuing struggles on the pitch, the Australian insisted that after he had got his squad together for a three-month training camp next summer they would reveal a whole new attacking structure and emerge as serious contenders to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.
While that "jam tomorrow" approach might well have been an accurate summation, the RFU seem to have decided that they could not sacrifice every other aspect of the national team's performance to get there.
Following this year's Six Nations, which brought defeats by Scotland, Ireland and France, RFU head Bill Sweeney was widely ridiculed for saying there were signs of solid progress.
Following the dispiriting Springbok defeat he sounded far less supportive when pointedly saying of the fans' opinions: "It matters to us how they feel".
In a statement on Tuesday, Sweeney said: "It is important to recognise the huge contribution Eddie has made to English rugby, winning three Six Nations Championships, one Grand Slam and taking us to a Rugby World Cup final. He has the highest win ratio of any England head coach and has helped develop the leadership skills of many players and coaches.
"I am grateful to Eddie for the professional way in which he has approached reviewing the performance of the team. He has provided the panel with astute insight and meaningful lessons that will support the team performance."
Jones said: "I am pleased with much that we have achieved as an England team and I look forward to watching their performance in the future. Many of the players and I will no doubt keep in touch and I wish them all well in their future careers."
England's decline over the last three years is in sharp contrast to the success that Jones brought in the aftermath of the 2015 group-stage exit.
The highest-paid coach in international rugby, he initially oversaw a record run of 18 straight test wins, with a Grand Slam achieved at the first attempt and a hugely impressive and first 3-0 series whitewash in Australia.
Things started to drop off in 2018 when England lost six games in a row but with a change in his assistants - a constant theme of his tenure - they roared back at the following year's World Cup.
The semi-final victory over New Zealand was widely acclaimed as England's greatest-ever performance, though the joy was short-lived as they were brushed aside in the final by South Africa.
Since then it has been a bumpy road, with fans and media tiring at his selection inconsistencies and endlessly upbeat rhetoric that was made to look ever more unjustifiable against the proven progress of European rivals Ireland and France.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Pritha Sarkar)