England head coach Eddie Jones has hit back at criticism from Sir Clive Woodward and is adamant he will leave the Red Rose in a good position when he eventually moves on from his position.
There is plenty of pressure on Jones after England finished an underwhelming Autumn Nations Series campaign with a 27-13 defeat against an under-strength Springbok side at Twickenham last Saturday.
With the fixture falling outside the Test window, South Africa were without their European-based players but still handed their hosts their sixth loss of 2022.
Worst campaign in 14 years
That meant the Red Rose finished their worst campaign since 2008 as they delivered a losing Test record for the first time since that year, with their 12 matches finishing with those six defeats, one draw and five victories.
That record has led to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) conducting a review which will decide whether Jones stays on in his position or whether the governing body and the Australian coach part ways less than 12 months out from next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
RFU chief Bill Sweeney conceded that “results are not where we expect them to be” and Woodward, who guided England to their only World Cup triumph in 2003, criticised Jones heavily on Sunday. He said rugby in England is a shambles and insisted the defeat against the Boks was “one of the most depressing games I’ve seen at HQ”.
Jones has responded to Woodward’s remarks and said he is happy with where he is in terms of his coaching.
“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 will step down after next year’s World Cup, 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.”
The loss to South Africa saw England being booed off at Twickenham. It meant England only managed to beat Japan during the Autumn Nations Series – after they drew with New Zealand in their second Test of the series – but Jones feels they can still be a force at the World Cup.
England are currently the fifth favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup and will avoid the global showpiece’s heavyweights until the semi-final stage with one of Australia, Wales or Fiji a probable quarter-final opponent in France.
Outsiders for the World Cup
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.”