Rugby Union

England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations.

Sir Clive Woodward has made an brilliant point about England's dismal Six Nations

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England suffered the humiliation of their worst Six Nations performance for 36 years by losing 24-15 to Ireland yesterday.

The result at Twickenham meant they finished in fifth place, below France on points difference following their 14-13 defeat to Wales.

It's some fall from grace for the Red Roses, having won nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches before this year's tournament.

They missed out on a second straight Grand Slam with a 13-9 defeat to Ireland in last season's finale, and it was ironic that the same opponents completed one of their own against England yesterday.

After wins against Italy and Wales to start the tournament, Eddie Jones' men put in some turgid displays to lose away at Scotland and France, before the Emerald Isle stole their unbeaten home record under the Australian.

After all the positivity of Jones reign before February, things now couldn't be looking more bleak, with the 2019 World Cup in Japan beginning to appear over the horizon.

And a man who knows all about what it takes to win the most important trophy in world rugby is Sir Clive Woodward.

England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations

Woodward guided England to their only success in the tournament back in 2003 against Australia, so his opinion is worth more than most.

He doesn't place the blame for their dismal Six Nations on either Jones or the players though, and cited an unlikely factor behind their below-par displays.

(FILES) File picture of English coach Cl

Instead, the former head coach claims that the players' involvement in the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand has had a major role, because they're simply exhausted.

16 of the initial 41-man squad for the tour were English, compared to 12 from Wales, 11 from Ireland and only two from Scotland.

The physical demands of an extra two months' work at the end of the Premiership season has now affected England's players according to Woodward, so he has some sympathy for them.

"Why has it happened? I wouldn't overstate what happened on the Lions tour," he started.

New Zealand v British & Irish Lions

"As a fan I love the Lions, as a coach I didn't like it one bit. The way the Lions players are set up and play so many games with their clubs it's a bad year.

"Maro Itoje looked out on his feet and wasn't the same player we saw last summer against New Zealand. It's taken its toll on them."

Woodward went on to add that Jones needs to sort out how much rugby his players are involved in over the year in order to prevent future burn outs.

He pointed out that Wales and Ireland do things differently, and considering that those two finished in the top two of the Six Nations, the former England boss may just have a point.

"One of the reasons I fell out with Twickenham and left all those years ago and left the job because as head coach you need more control of your players," he continued.

England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations

"The Welsh have central contracts, the Irish have central contracts and allowed their players to be really fit.

"We have the players and I'm a big fan of Eddie Jones, but they have just run out of steam. He needs to sort it out."

The pressure has been cranked up on the Australian, and he's already put on record that some of those who featured for him yesterday won't pull on the white jersey again.

Changes are certainly afoot, but it would be an awful shame to see the Lions system messed about with.

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British & Irish Lions
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