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Clock ticking fast for Eddie Jones

SPOTLIGHT: England head coach Eddie Jones could find out within the next 48 hours if he still has a job following a Rugby Football Union (RFU) review into the team’s woeful year-end campaign.

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The veteran Australian boss was reportedly meeting with Twickenham chiefs on Monday after presiding over England’s worst year since 2008.

Jones, 62, is contracted to take England through to next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, after which he is set to step down.

But the often outspoken and abrasive coach’s departure could be accelerated after 2022 where England lost six out of 12 Tests, with five wins and a draw.

The year ended with a decisive 27-13 defeat by World Cup holders South Africa, usually loyal England fans jeering their team off the Twickenham pitch after a lacklustre display.

It all left former Australia and Japan coach Jones more vulnerable to the sack than at any time since his appointment after a 2015 World Cup where hosts England crashed out in the group stage.

 ‘Everything is not OK’

“When are the leading figures at the RFU going to wake up and realise English rugby is in trouble?,” former England coach Clive Woodward, in charge of the 2003 World Cup-winning team, told the Daily Mail.

“Everything is not OK.”

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Jones’ position was not helped when his longtime media advisor, David Pembroke described RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney as “slippery” while accusing the Twickenham supremo of leaking stories to the media.

Jones made an immediate positive impact, leading England to a 2016 Grand Slam, with further Six Nations Championship titles won in 2017 and 2020.

He also took England to the 2019 World Cup final in Japan, defeating both Australia and New Zealand in the knockout stages, only to be well-beaten 32-12 by the Springboks in the showpiece match.

But his critics allege Jones is a superb ‘turn-around’ coach, whose effectiveness is diluted the longer he remains in post.

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Even Jones accepted he should have stood down as Australia coach after the Wallabies’ 2003 World Cup final loss, but stayed too long only to be sacked in 2005.

Jones, however, recently told Men’s Health UK magazine: “I’m 62 now and I think in pure coaching terms I am coaching better than I ever have.”

But his detractors say Jones getting through some 200 players in seven years of England matches and training squads, together with repeated changes of coaching staff, makes winning the 2023 World Cup all the more difficult.

Meanwhile, his repeated insistence England will come good at France next year is starting to annoy supporters who pay some of the highest ticket prices in world rugby union and have seen the side lose six of their last 10 matches in the Six Nations – a tournament that remans important in its own right for many fans.

But who takes over if Jones goes?

There had been speculation Warren Gatland might be appointed on a short-term deal.

That ended, however, when it was announced on Monday the New Zealander would be returning for a second spell as Wales coach after a dismal run of results under his successor and compatriot Wayne Pivac.

Former England captain Steve Borthwick, the coach of Premiership champions Leicester is now the leading contender.

But if Borthwick, previously an assistant to Jones, cannot be prized away from the Tigers or Crusaders coach Scott Robertson lured from New Zealand before the World Cup, the RFU could appoint current performance director Conor O’Shea as England coach on an interim basis.

That former Harlequins and Italy coach O’Shea is understood to be a member of the review panel could raise issues over a conflict of interest should he succeed Jones.

But it may also help balance the books, with the cost of paying off Jones’ deal estimated at £700,000 ($853,000) a figure that could rise to £1 million if his staff leave as well.

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