Eddie Jones will learn if he is to continue as England head coach next week with the Rugby Football Union’s review into a dismal autumn set to conclude on Tuesday.
Jones is fighting for his future after presiding over England’s worst year since 2008, consisting of six defeats, a draw and five wins and ending with Saturday’s chastening loss to South Africa.
The inquest had been scheduled to take two weeks, but the PA news agency understands that Jones’ final meeting with the review panel will be held on Monday with the RFU’s board convening the following day to ratify its decision.
A public announcement will be made in midweek, revealing whether the Australian is to continue until the World Cup when his eight-year reign is contracted to end or if the RFU is to appoint an alternative.
Jones’ position has never been more precarious, with former Wales and Lions boss Warren Gatland seen as the frontrunner to replace him if the RFU does decide to act.
Gatland is in demand, however, as Wales weigh up the future of their own head coach Wayne Pivac.
Jones’ case to continue in a post he has held since the end of 2015 was not helped when his independent media advisor David Pembroke described RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney as “slippery” amid an accusation that he had leaked stories to the media about the departure of backroom staff.
Pembroke added that Sweeney is a “goner” and has since apologised for the remarks made on Wednesday in the comments section of a newspaper website.
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 29, 2022
Sweeney has been leading the review process and it is understood that he retains the full support of the board, who make the final decision on whether or not to sack Jones.
The review panel has regularly presented to the board during its investigation into what went wrong during an autumn that opened with defeat to Argentina, produced a solitary victory over Japan and a draw with New Zealand before signing off with an abject collapse against the Springboks.
With the World Cup in France nine months away, England have left it perilously late to change their coach but the RFU may feel it has no alternative but to act given the team’s alarming slide under Jones.
Boos rang out at Twickenham following the rout by South Africa and even Jones supporters such as former England wing Ugo Monye believe his time in the job has run its course.
Steve Borthwick, Ronan O’Gara and Scott Robertson are seen as credible replacements, but parachuting either of them into the crisis that has engulfed England would be risky.
Veteran coach Gatland would be seen as a strong short-term candidate to lead the team through until the World Cup and there are few alternatives who command his authority.
Retaining Jones could be viewed as an even greater gamble as, were England to lose their Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 4, his position would become almost untenable.