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England rugby coach Jones hits back at ‘sad’ Woodward

England rugby coach Eddie Jones has labelled Clive Woodward “sad” after his predecessor’s stinging criticism following a lacklustre Autumn Nations that left the Australian fighting to stay in his job.

Saturday’s 27-13 defeat by world champions South Africa meant England finished 2022 with six losses from 12 Tests.

That reverse against the Springboks, who defeated Jones’ men in the World Cup final three years ago, also gave England their worst year since 2008.

An ongoing review by England’s governing Rugby Football Union is set to decide if Jones stays as coach until next year’s World Cup in France or leaves some 12 months earlier than scheduled.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, long a strong supporter of Jones admitted “results are not where we expect them to be”.

But Woodward, England’s coach when they won their lone World Cup title 19 years ago after beating an Australia side coached by Jones in the final, was scathing.

Woodward labelled rugby in England a “total shambles”, with last weekend’s defeat “one of the most depressing games I’ve seen at HQ”.

But Jones, who has long agreed to step down after the 2023 World Cup, told Men’s Health UK: “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.

“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 a defeat by a South Africa side missing their Europe-based players for a Test outside of World Rugby’s designated window.

Jones, however, believes England could yet succeed at a World Cup where they will avoid any of the leading contenders until the semi-finals.

“If this was the Cheltenham Gold Cup (horse race), 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,” said Jones.

“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.”

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