Maro Itoje has leapt to the defence of under-fire head coach Eddie Jones - insisting the players are the ones to blame for England's poor Six Nations campaign.

The tournament came to an end as it had begun for the reigning champions with another ignominious performance, this one a 32-18 loss to Ireland in Dublin.

It follows equally perplexing and shocking efforts against Scotland in week one and Wales in week three.

And even the excellent victory over France seven days earlier has not been able to turn the tide of opinion against Jones.

But according to the former Harpenden Rugby Club junior, he remains the right man to lead England into the 2023 Word Cup.

Itoje said: "Eddie is a fantastic coach. He's one of the best coaches I've worked with. His work rate, his knowledge, his feeling with the players, the way he goes about his business. They are genuinely second to none.

"As players, we need to be accountable for our behaviours. At the end of the day, Eddie can't play the game for us.

"The players need to be accountable and if you ask any player who has been under Eddie, I doubt anyone will say differently. He's a truly special coach.

"We're disappointed because we know that as a team we're capable of so much more.

"It's just on us, I don't have any excuses here. We just weren't good enough."

The fifth-place finish in the Six Nations equals their worst-ever showing and is a far cry from the side that reached the World Cup final in 2019.

And Itoje says England haven't got time to lick their wounds, the lessons and the recovery starts now.

He said: "We've learned some lessons, some tough lessons. If I was to think of it holistically, if we're going to learn the lessons, it's best to do that now.

"You never want to go through periods like this, but if this makes us a better team in the long run and makes us a better team when we get back together, then we can move forwards.

"In terms of what I believe this team can do and what this team can achieve, nothing has changed. I truly believe that we've got something here.

"I do believe we are going somewhere but we have to recover and take our medicine from this Six Nations.

"With everything, it's how you respond, how you pick yourself up and how you go again."