Former England manager Clive Woodward said Saturday’s loss to South Africa had capped off the “worst week in English rugby history” and launched a scathing attack on Eddie Jones and current Red Rose bosses at Twickenham.
The Springboks, in an echo of their 2019 World Cup final victory over England, were too strong up front and had much more attacking cunning behind them when they won 27-13 at Twickenham.
The defeat meant England finished 2022 with five wins, six losses and one draw from 12 Tests, their worst calendar year since 2008.
To make matters worse, South Africa was not even in top form for a match that would take place outside World Rugby’s designated window for the Autumn Nations Series.
Another lackluster loss came just two days after Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney and other top English officials were accused of presiding over a “failure on an epic scale” by a UK parliamentary committee after the financial collapse of Premiership clubs Worcester and Wasps.
“This was the worst week in English rugby history,” Woodward wrote in his Mail on Sunday column. “The game in this country is total chaos and a loss to a South African team without nine of their best players showing it.
“When will the leading figures in the RFU wake up and realize that English rugby is in trouble? All is not well. Eddie Jones will be allowed to carry on as he pleases once more.”
Woodward added that the England team were “miles from where they need to be”, with 11 months until next year’s World Cup in France, while the old test center was hit hard by the reaction of a crowd of more than 81,000 people after full time on Saturday. .
“I’ve never seen people booing at the final whistle at Twickenham before,” he said. “It really, really hurts me to see and hear that. I hate it. But at the same time, it also reflects where England is at the moment.”
England’s autumn program consisted of a first loss to Argentina in 14 years, followed by a resounding win over Japan and a remarkable return draw with New Zealand before a decisive loss to the Springboks.
Even the RFU was moved to acknowledge England’s plight without the same unequivocal backing it offered Jones when the 2022 Six Nations ended in three defeats for the third time in five years.
Jones and Twickenham bosses agreed long ago that his eight-year spell as England manager would end after the 2023 World Cup.
A successor is expected to be announced in May, with former England captain Steve Borthwick and Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara, as well as highly regarded New Zealander Scott Robertson, among the contenders.
The RFU confirmed on Sunday that its review panel, whose identities it refuses to disclose beyond saying they are “board members and executives alongside former players and independent coaches” will look at “how improvements can be made ahead of the Six Nations.” .
But there is no indication that Jones’ reign is about to come to a premature end, as Sweeney has been a big supporter of the Australian, in charge of his native Wallabies when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to the Woodward’s England in Sydney.
Sweeney, thanking the England fans for their “patience and support”, said on Sunday: “Like them, we are really disappointed with the results of the Autumn Nations Series.
“Despite strong individual performances and the addition of some great new talent to the team, the overall results are not where we expected.”