‘Incredibly disappointed’ but England boss won’t knock Eddie out ahead of World Cup despite Six Nations failure

The failure of the Six Nations in England fell short of expectations, but Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney remains convinced that Eddie Jones is the right man to guide the team to the World Cup.

They finished third in the table after dropping to three defeats for a second consecutive year, but the first reaction from the RFU was to say “we are encouraged by the solid progress the team has made”.

It was an attempt to end any uncertainty over Jones’ future, but it sparked an uproar with former England winger Ugo Monye and retired Wales captain Sam Warburton accusing Twickenham of being ” dishonest”.

“The feelings were genuine. Really disappointed, massively frustrated. Should we have said that earlier on Saturday? Yes, probably, also acknowledging the disappointment of the fans,” Sweeney conceded. “We are all, as an organization and for one person, incredibly disappointed with what happened this year in the Six Nations.

“We expect more from England and we demand more in terms of results and performance. Our emotions were very high. It still feels pretty raw.

“Winning two this year compared to winning two last year is not progress and that is fair criticism. But we feel we are heading in the right direction, so we agreed with that statement.

Apart from winning the title on points difference in the COVID-halted 2020 Six Nations, England’s record in the tournament over the past five years is grim reading.

In that span, they have finished fifth twice and on three occasions only managed two wins, increasing scrutiny of Australian Jones’ position as head coach.

A successful autumn that produced wins over Tonga, Australia and South Africa gave him breathing space, but the RFU’s unconditional support for Jones is irritating sections of the rugby public.

Jones will now face the usual championship-ending scrutiny that will be conducted by Sweeney and a panel of unnamed gaming figures, but his future is secure regardless of their findings.

“We speak with Eddie very frequently and he updates us in terms of thinking and where he thinks we’re falling short,” Sweeney said. “He has absolute conviction and commitment from the players and we believe he is the right guy to guide us. We will continue to review as we go.

“It’s not easy to finish fifth in a Six Nations. It’s not easy to be third, but it’s worse to be fifth. Forget the leaderboards for a second – you just don’t want to lose.

“Do we have the right configuration? Do we have the right organization? Are we going to progress or are we fooling ourselves?

“Every time we’ve had this conversation we’ve said ‘no, we think we’re going in the right direction as we transition and rebuild this team’.”

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