England head coach Eddie Jones is facing increasing criticism following his latest comments ahead of the Six Nations opener against the formidable Ireland side on February 2.
The comments come after Jones’ surprise announcement that he could play nine forwards against the Six Nations holders and could utilise usual winger Jack Nowell as an openside flanker.
However, former World Cup-winning coach, Woodward is firmly against Jones' bizarre plan by reminding him 'You’re not coaching Japan anymore, this is England!’ in a column for the Daily Mail.
Jones took over the England coaching role in 2015 following a superb performance with Japan at the Rugby World Cup and got off to a perfect start as his side went a record-equalling 18 matches unbeaten. Since then though England’s performances have dipped and a dismal 2018 Six Nations left Jones’ position under threat.
Jones’ greatest success with Japan was a historic victory against South Africa at the World Cup and to Woodward it feels like Jones is resorting back to trying to figure out unique theories to break down the world’s best.
He said: "I like Eddie, but this talk of using Jack Nowell as an extra forward or an outright No 7 is a huge own goal. This was his first press conference of 2019, a massive year for English rugby, and he’s discussing something completely irrelevant.
"The game’s structure is being turned on its head, but Eddie, you are not coaching Japan any more, trying to find a way to catch the opposition out. This is England, one of the top teams on the planet. There are only a handful of matches until the World Cup — it is not the time for new theories."
Nowell himself was heavily involved in England’s Grand Slam win in the 2016 Six Nations and has scored 60 points in 28 appearances at international level. Nevertheless, it would be a surprise to see him listed as a forward on February 2 or possibly even in the 23-man squad for the fixture.
The Irish coached by Joe Schmidt will head into the Six Nations as over-riding favourites as the world’s second-ranked side.
And Woodward hopes it isn't just a mind game.
"If it is an attempt to distract Joe Schmidt and Ireland, Eddie is badly underestimating the quality and resilience of that side," he continued. "Ireland will be smiling. You cannot imagine Schmidt discussing this total irrelevance in a press conference, especially in World Cup year.
"Winding your own men up is fine, but doing so publicly undermines this talented England team.
"If it is a genuine theory, the practicalities are stacked against England. I am a fan of Nowell. His technique and grit are great, but I don’t believe he will be in the 23 for that Ireland game. And he should not have to reinvent himself now."
If England are to have any chance of winning this year’s competition it may hinge on the result in the opening fixture at the fortress that is the Aviva Stadium.
Many feel the England side lack leadership and they will need every ounce of team spirit to get a result in the Irish capital with questions still lingering over Jones’ team selection.