LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's unforgiving rugby media have launched into England coach Eddie Jones after his side suffered a fifth successive test loss with a 23-12 series-losing defeat to South Africa in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Jones' side raced to a quick 12-0 lead before the Springboks got into the game and over-ran them for the second successive week following a similar come-from-behind 42-39 victory in Johannesburg.
The defeat was the sixth overall for England, who also lost to the Barbarians before they left for South Africa, and prior to this season had been riding an unprecedented run of success and looking like a favourite for next year's World Cup in Japan.
"England... find themselves in a state of freefall, with questions mounting about how can they arrest it," Gavin Mairs wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
"The series defeat, on the back of their fifth-place finish in the Six Nations, has stripped Eddie Jones' side of the status of genuine contenders for next year's World Cup."
Mairs also suggested Jones' job security was now in question, particularly given their fixtures as they fine tune their World Cup preparations.
"A third defeat against the Springboks in Cape Town next Saturday, with autumn tests against the Springboks and New Zealand to come at Twickenham, would see Jones' position come under fierce scrutiny," he wrote.
"It would also leave the Rugby Football Union... with the difficult decision of either backing Jones a year out from the World Cup with the hope that there is still time to turn the side's fortunes around or make a change in the same year that they extended his contract to 2021."
Jones was initially lauded when he took the job after England were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup in the pool phase and led them to 18 successive wins.
Three losses in the Six Nations this year, despite high hopes of becoming the first side to win three successive titles since it expanded in 2000, however, have seen the team slip to fourth in the world.
"One hundred and twenty-six days have now elapsed since England last won a game of test rugby and the long wait goes on," Rob Kitson wrote in The Guardian.
"Whatever magic dust Jones scattered earlier in his tenure has long since disappeared into the ether.
"The postmortem will become even messier if England are flattened again at Newlands, raising fresh doubts about the effectiveness of Jones' training methods and whether or not he can drag things back between now and the World Cup."
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)