Eddie Jones has hit back at “sad” critic Sir Clive Woodward and insisted he will leave England in a good shape when he eventually departs.
Jones is under pressure after he watched England conclude a dismal Autumn Nations series with Saturday’s 27-13 loss to South Africa, who were without their European-based players but still inflicted a sixth defeat of 2022 on the hosts at Twickenham.
It completed the nation’s worst year since 2008 and the Rugby Football Union is now conducting a review, which will inevitably decide if Jones continues until next year’s World Cup as planned or leaves his post 12 months earlier.
RFU chief Bill Sweeney admitted “results are not where we expect them to be” and Woodward, who masterminded England’s solitary World Cup win 19 years ago, was yet again fierce in his criticism of Jones on Sunday – labelling rugby in this country as a shambles and insisting the weekend defeat was “one of the most depressing games I’ve seen at HQ.”
“I feel sad for him (Woodward). If that is the best thing he has to do in his life, then he hasn’t a lot to do,” Jones, who had already agreed to step down after the 2023 World Cup in France, told Men’s Health UK.
“I’m 62 now and I think in pure coaching terms I am coaching better than I ever have. Results aren’t always perfect, but I’m happy with how I have been coaching.
“After this, I want to do something really meaningful. I’ve enjoyed England a lot, it was a bit of a rescue job at the start, now rebuilding, and I am confident I will leave things in good shape.”
England were booed off at Twickenham after defeat to the Springboks, which meant their record for 2022 finished at five wins, one draw and six losses.
Scotland, Ireland, France, Australia, Argentina and South Africa have all beaten the World Cup runners-up during the past 12 months but Jones believes they can still be a force at next year’s tournament.
Currently the fifth favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, England will avoid the frontrunners until the semi-final stage with one of Australia, Wales or Fiji a probably last-eight opponent in France.
Jones added: “If this was the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there’s a pack of four out front – France, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand – and we are fifth, right behind them, right on the rails.
“A good position, provided we keep improving. Australia are there or thereabouts with us. It’s going to be the closest World Cup ever. France and Ireland are the in-form teams right now, but things will change.”
::Eddie Jones was speaking to Men’s Health UK ‘Talking Heads’ columnist Alastair Campbell in an interview available to read on the Men’s Health UK website now, via https://www.menshealth.com/uk/mhsquad/a42117863/eddie-jones-england-rugby/.