The head of the RFU has repeated his backing of Eddie Jones and his belief that England are making progress, but admitted the upbeat statement of support on Sunday should have shown more understanding of fans' frustration.

Echoing Jones's generally positive comments after last week's defeat by France, their third of the Six Nations, the RFU issued a statement saying it was "encouraged by the team's solid progress". That came a year after England's fifth-placed finish in the tournament, also after three defeats,

Speaking to the media for the first time in a year at Twickenham on Thursday, CEO Bill Sweeney said that although this year's performance was "hugely disappointing", he had faith that Jones was the right man to turn things around.

"We weren't lying. When we made that statement, we were being honest," Sweeney said after several high-profile former players criticised the RFU for misleading fans.

"Solid progress - I can understand how that might confuse after two wins last year and two wins this year. But progress is not just about matches won. It’s also about hitting certain objectives along the way. We were talking about improvements to the structure, to the squad and to how we’re playing.

"The positive developments that we spoke about were in terms of the new players coming in, the leadership on the field and the spirit within the camp. In terms of how we feel the team is progressing and how it's developing feel we're heading in the right direction."

Jones has come under heavy fire in the media but Sweeney, who will oversee a routine review of the Six Nations alongside a largely confidential group of "experts", made it clear that getting rid of the Australian was not on the agenda.

"Since 2019 Eddie's been very clear and up front about things that would need to happen" he said. "Those have not always been transparent or published out there, but if you think about players that have come in...a lot of them he’s identified for some time.

"He felt that the spirit in the side needed to improve and we needed to break down some of the club relationships and forge one England identity. We’ve seen that come on leaps and bounds. Another big one is leadership on the field of play. The other one is decision-making – maturity and composure in critical moments. We think we’re not there yet.

"We speak on a very frequent basis and he updates us in terms of our thinking and where he thinks we’re falling short. He’s got the absolute belief and commitment of the players. Given all of that, we believe he’s the right guy to take us through."