The Rugby Football Union will conduct a review into England’s “really disappointing” autumn campaign, but have stopped short of offering their backing to head coach Eddie Jones.
The RFU review panel will hold a series of meetings over the next two weeks to discuss the autumn series, which yielded one win from four matches.
Chief executive Bill Sweeney says the union shares the frustrations of fans.
“Like them we are really disappointed with the results,” he said.
In a statement, a day after the 27-13 defeat by South Africa, Sweeney added: “Despite strong individual performances and some great new talent coming through, the overall results are not where we expect them to be.
“We would like to thank England fans for their patience and support, it matters to us how they feel.”
There is no mention of Jones in the statement, with the head coach’s position under scrutiny after five wins from 12 matches in the calendar year.
Dispensing with Jones at this stage would mark a major deviation from the RFU’s oft-stated plan, with both union and head coach fixated on next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
However, union sources have told the BBC they are unable to comment on his position ahead of the review, so as not to pre-empt its findings.
This is in contrast to the RFU’s stance after the 2022 Six Nations, when they released a statement saying they “fully supported” Jones and praised the “solid progress” the team had made despite two wins from five Championship matches.
Former England fly-half Paul Grayson told the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast any other coach but Jones – who has a fine World Cup pedigree – would struggle to survive given the recent results.
“Any person who goes into business with a four-year plan, if that is crumbling after three and a bit, do you change and change direction? Yes, you probably do,” he said.
“It gets to the point where the higher-ups have to think if this investment is worth it? Are we so far in [that] to change now [would be] a waste of the last three and a half years?
“Don’t forget the RFU and Bill Sweeney have been 100% behind Eddie Jones. There has never been a question whether he’s the right man to take us to the World Cup.
“Which is why we always go: ‘Oh it’s not going to happen [Eddie Jones leaving]. They [the RFU] probably can’t afford it, he’s not going to walk away and his boss thinks he’s the guy.'”
The RFU review panel will now meet to discuss “how improvements can be made ahead of the Six Nations”, with their findings expected in the next fortnight.
The panel is an anonymous body of “board and executive members, along with independent former players and coaches”.