Eddie Jones insisted his England players are still responding to his methods despite a 32-18 mauling by Ireland which equalled their worst overall Six Nations performance.
Tries from Keith Earls and Jack Conan, accompanied by 22 points from Johnny Sexton, inflicted a third defeat of the competition and, to compound the fallen champions’ misery, they were bullied into submission at the Aviva Stadium.
England will finish fifth for only the second time since 2000 to intensify scrutiny of Jones, but the head coach is convinced the team remain on the right path.
“I don’t think that’s the issue,” Jones said when asked if he is still getting through to his players. “If I thought that was the issue, I wouldn’t be coaching the team.
“As disappointed as I am about the result, we still know where we are going and we’ll continue in a positive fashion.
“There were a lot of positive things in the game. It was a difficult game for us but we still know where we are going.”
Apart from a stirring 23-20 victory over France, it has been a dismal two months for England who have entered full reverse since the 2019 World Cup when they lost to South Africa in the final.
“We need to assess where we are going,” Jones said. “As I’ve said all along, we are 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.”
Farrell: Win is fitting reward for Ireland
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell believes the first major scalp of his tenure is fitting reward for his players following the criticism they faced earlier in the tournament and provides impetus for the future.
The dominant display earned the Irish a third successive win after defeats to Wales and France condemned them to their worst start to a Six Nations campaign.
“To win any last game in a tournament is always pleasing because it’s a long time between drinks until the next one, so to finish off with a W is pleasing,” Farrell said.
“But I am just delighted for the lads because they’ve come in for a bit of stick. Obviously we’ve lost a couple of games and we never like to lose.
“The lads have always believed in how they are progressing, and they’ve always thought that there is a performance like that in them.
“The performance wasn’t perfect; there is still a lot to work on but I am so pleased for them that they got over the line with a nice victory against a very good side. It just solidifies for us that we are on the right track.”
Ireland captain Sexton became the tournament’s leading points scorer on 65 following a nerveless kicking display.
The fly-half credited the impending retirement of Munster back-row CJ Stander and being “sick” of defending performances and results to the media as inspiration for the statement victory.
“It was a mixture of things,” Sexton said. “The fact that we wanted to do ourselves justice for the work we felt we put in, that was a huge motivator.
“Obviously CJ’s last game was a big one. The big driver for me was getting the win that we felt we deserved, the performance we felt we deserved.
“I was sick of coming in here and talking to you guys (the media) every week defending ourselves, saying ‘we’re not that far away’.
“I don’t think you believed me and we got a performance we felt we deserved today.”