DUBLIN: Anyone expecting England coach Eddie Jones to offer a grand gesture or an acceptance of the need for radical change was left disappointed on Saturday as he reacted to his side's thrashing against Ireland by saying: "We know where we're going."
Ireland won 32-18 and England only got that close late on when the hosts were down to 14 men after a red card for Bundee Aki. Coming after last week's uplifting England victory over France it was a huge anti-climax and a depressing end to the Six Nations Championship, where they are set to finish fifth.
The statistics make grim reading for an England team who came into the tournament as defending champions.
It is the first time since 1976 that they have achieved a reverse triple crown of losing to Ireland, Scotland and Wales; they finished in their joint worst position since Italy joined the Six Nations in 2000 - matching the fifth place of 2018; while they conceded 14 penalties on Saturday, giving them a shocking total of 67 across their five games.
Jones said the result was difficult to explain.
"We thought we started well. The first 20 minutes was a bit of nip and tuck. A couple of things went well and we allowed that to get to us and dropped our intensity off," he said. "Ireland took advantage of that, and established a winning lead.
"Tribute to my team. They are honest, they work hard, they came back in the game and fought hard when things were difficult. Congratulations to Ireland they were too good for us on the day.
"As disappointed as I am about the result, we still know where we're going and we’ll continue in a positive fashion."
Asked what needed to change to reverse the 2019 World Cup finalists' fortunes, Jones suggested not much.
"We need to assess where we're going. As I’ve said all along, we're going through a transition period in the team. This is almost a natural time for that to happen with two years before the World Cup. Those things will happen.
"We’ve had a fairly settled team for the last four years and that’s natural. But post the Lions maybe there will be changes to personnel," he added referring to the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa scheduled for July and August.
Asked if he felt he was still getting through to the players, the Australian said: "Most definitely. If I thought that was the issue I wouldn’t be coaching the team."
Flanker Tom Curry added: "A bit of discipline cost us here and there. In the last 20 (minutes) we showed a bit more of a glimpse of what we're about. It was that middle section where we need to back it up and we probably didn't do that today.
"Losing is never easy and there is stuff we do need to fix but the feeling in the group is that we're almost there but it’s not quite clicking. But I'm confident we are going to come out of this better."
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Ken Ferris)