Sir Clive Woodward claims that the legacy of Eddie Jones’ time in charge of the England rugby team will be one of “misguided rhetoric and unfulfilled promises” as the Australian was sacked as the national team’s head coach.
Jones has been dismissed following the dismal autumn campaign that saw England win one of their four games and end 2022 with their worst record in 14 years.
A post-international review period has not fallen in Jones’s favour, and the RFU swung the axe on Tuesday – with Leicester Tigers' director of rugby Steve Borthwick lined up to replace him ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Woodward, the 2003 World Cup-winning head coach, has been a long-term critic of Jones, the man who he beat in the final 19 years ago in Sydney.
He has long called for the RFU to sack Jones following a drop-off in results during the Australian's second World Cup cycle, and in what could be seen as a final swipe before he is sacked, Woodward claimed history will not look kindly on Jones’ time in charge.
“What will Jones’s legacy be? The semi-final victory over New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup was his best performance but unfortunately, he will be remembered for the misguided rhetoric and unfulfilled promises.” Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail. “I don’t think history will remember this period of English rugby too kindly.”
He added: “I’m always sorry to see people lose their job but Eddie Jones has been badly distracted since the last World Cup and he’s paid the price. He is a shadow of the Jones I competed with and whose first years with England were so successful and rightfully applauded.
“He became completely focused on the 2023 World Cup and that was a costly error. International rugby is very simple: focus everything on the next game with absolutely zero distractions. The fans who pump the money into the sport didn’t buy his hype.
“He lost focus of simply winning the next game and allowed himself to get distracted by the media, former players, writing books and everything else. It was interesting to hear Arsene Wenger talk about Germany losing games at the football World Cup because they were distracted by political protests. They were not the only ones who took their eye off the ball.”
Borthwick’s expected appointment, which could be announced as early as this week, comes after another candidate for the job in Warren Gatland elected to return to Wales as their national team head coach, following the dismissal of Wayne Pivac.
Axing Jones 'a big mistake' – Aussie legend Giteau
As exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport, Gatland has returned to the job three years after leaving by signing a long-term deal that could run through to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.
But his former Wales captain, Sam Warburton, believes the RFU have missed a huge opportunity to bring Gatland to Twickenham instead, with the Welsh Rugby Union beating their rivals to the New Zealander’s signature.
“It is a good move by the Welsh Rugby Union. It has acted swiftly and decisively. For England, I think it is a real opportunity missed if they are going to part company with Eddie Jones,” Warburton wrote in The Times.
“In my previous column, I was not saying that I wanted Gats to go there, but I could have understood if he had, and I think he would have done a really good job for England. But Wales have got him first.”
Australia great Matt Giteau, who played under Jones for the Wallabies, said sacking the coach was "a big mistake" by England.
Before the news was confirmed, he tweeted: "If Eddie Jones gets sacked it would have to be the silliest thing they could do to the English rugby team.
"He plans and plans and plans years in advance for this competition. It’s the one competition that he has got consistently right time and time again. Big mistake."
Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan, meanwhile, described the decision to ditch Jones as "a massive call". He said: "[England are] in a crisis moment, the players would have had to back him or not back him… They’re the guys who are playing for him and I always felt they did play for him...
"I think he’s been tough on them but they’ve bought into him. So I think it would be a massive call. They don’t have a ready replacement. Getting rid of your head coach this close to a World Cup is a massive call."
Ex-England flanker Neil Back said Jones' dismissal was "inevitable after a horrific 2022".
Reaction from Jones and RFU chief Sweeney
Following confirmation Jones had been dismissed, both the newly-departed head coach and RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney released statements.
Jones said: "I am pleased with much that we have achieved as an England team and I look forward to watching the team’s performance in the future. Many of the players and I will no doubt keep in touch and I wish them all well in their future careers."
Sweeney said: "It is important to recognise the huge contribution Eddie has made to English rugby, winning three Six Nations Championships, one Grand Slam and taking us to a Rugby World Cup final.
"He has the highest win ratio of any previous England head coach and has helped develop the leadership skills of many players and coaches.
"I am grateful to Eddie for all he has done for England across many areas of the game and the professional way in which he has approached reviewing the performance of the team. He has provided the panel with astute insight and meaningful lessons that will support the team performance going forward."