England apologise for sorry campaign after leaving Ireland with Triple Frown

At the end Jonny May emerged from the wreckage and apologised for England’s woeful showing.

“Fans have a right to be disappointed,” he said, picking through the pieces of a broken campaign.

“It’s completely fair enough. It was tournament-defining, this game. The opportunity to finish on a high and show we'd learnt lessons and improved. We didn't do that."

England flew home with a Triple Frown from heaping another layer of humiliation onto the twin shockers of Scotland and Wales.

The world’s best-resourced rugby nation finished above only Italy, coughing up more points and more penalties than ever before.

Whilst France and Wales lit up the night with their rugby pyrotechnics, the World Cup finalists of little more than a year ago were plunged into the darkness of a record Six Nations low.

“It wasn't quite as bad as Scotland, maybe,” said May, clearly unconvinced that being spanked by 14-man Ireland was any better than failing to fire a shot against a Scots side without a Twickenham win since 1983.

“But it was a poor one – and I'm sorry. I’m unhappy. Everyone’s unhappy.”

Once again Eddie Jones put forward various theories for the flop but no firm answer as to why, in Mako Vunipola’s words, “we just weren’t at the races”.

There were the usual assurances that while today might have been “unacceptable”, England will reap the benefits tomorrow.

Trouble is, this trust-me-to-sort-it message has worn thin with England supporters seeking firm action not vague words.

They have grown tired of seeing players tear it up in the Premiership yet it count for nothing in the court of King Eddie.

Weary of seeing Jones’ chosen ones not deliver yet time and again get invited back for another go.

Sir Clive Woodward is in no doubt that the demise is a direct result of no meaningful debrief by RFU bosses of England’s World Cup final “no show” 16 months ago.

“I just get the feeling that Eddie and the team thought “we’re a youngish team, we’re going to win it in four years’ time,” he said.

“That’s a massive mistake. International rugby is game by game by game. The moment you don’t see things going well you have to make changes.”

Jones has too rarely done that, particularly with the out-of-sorts Saracens spine around which his team is built.

Yet the one time he did, benching Elliot Daly against France, Daly came back twice the player – proving that the process of renewal does both player and team a favour.

“It showed the benefit of actually dropping someone,” agreed World Cup winner Paul Grayson. “The jolt of being left out motivated Elliot and you saw an immediate response. So picking on form really does work.”

RFU chief Bill Sweeney will tomorrow be quizzed as to why Jones has apparently felt so little heat from his employers.

To come up with an explanation for why England appear to be stagnating, whilst Wales are cashing in on their autumn investment of bringing through the likes of Louis Rees-Zammit and Callum Sheedy.

Midway through the World Cup cycle the time for answers is now.

ENGLAND – Tries: Youngs, May. Con: Daly. Pens: Farrell 2.

IRELAND – Tries: Earls, Conan. Cons: Sexton 2. Pens: Sexton 6.

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