Following Australia’s worst Rugby World Cup defeat that pushed it to the verge of their earliest Rugby World Cup exit, coach Eddie Jones insisted he’s still the man to turn the Wallabies around.
The Wallabies had to stop unbeaten Wales today in Lyon to keep alive their perfect record of making the quarters at every tournament. But they were thrashed 40-6.
Wales’ biggest win over Australia propelled them to the quarter-finals with a game to spare in Pool C, while Australia’s fate was no longer in its hands.
It could beat Portugal next weekend to even their pool record at 2-2, but could be overtaken by Fiji if the latter beats Georgia and Portugal.
Jones was a forlorn figure after his Wallabies were sunk by three tries and the boot of Gareth Anscombe.
Rugby Australia ruthlessly sacked Dave Rennie in January due to a 38 percent win record, and immediately brought aboard Jones, 20 years after he led the Wallabies to the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. RA gave Jones a contract to the 2027 Rugby World Cup but hoped for one of his quick fixes to have the team firing in France.
Australia's Fraser McReight, left, and Australia's Rob Valetini embrace after the Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Wales and Australia. Photo / AP
But the Wallabies have lost seven of his eight tests. They lost to Fiji for the first time in 69 years last Monday, and suffered their heaviest loss to Wales.
“I remain committed to the Australia project,” Jones said. “I still believe I am the person to turn things around.
“At the moment I am not giving much help, am I? But that doesn’t mean my commitment to helping has changed.
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“I am a proud Australian, I hate to see Australian rugby do as poorly as we have been doing, particularly under my reign. It’s not only the Wallabies we have got to improve, we’ve got to treat the whole system of Australian rugby. It’s not an excuse but we’ve got to have a really good look at ourselves and see what we’ve got to do to improve.”
During the past week, Jones defended his decision to bring a young, largely inexperienced squad, saying he was building to 2027 while also believing they could still win this Rugby World Cup. He added he didn’t want to wait until after this tournament to begin the rebuild.
“I have got the ability to turn things around,” he said. “I was hoping we would be able to do it by now but we haven’t been able to. I haven’t done a good enough job and I am disappointed about that.”
On the eve of the Wales match, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Jones interviewed last month for his old Japan job. Asked about it after the Wales game, he said, “I don’t know what you are talking about mate. I take umbrage to people questioning my commitment to the Australia job.”
First five-eighth Carter Gordon, dropped to the bench for the Wales clash, said the players believed in Jones.
“As far as the players know, Eddie is committed to Rugby Australia,” Gordon said. “Look, we know he is committed to us and we are committed to him.”
The Wallabies paid for their inability to be clinical against Wales in a strong first half that finished with them trailing 16-6, and they were overrun in the second half.
“I apologise to all the Australian supporters,” Jones said.
“Our performance was not up to the standard that was required. We are disappointed, we have a young team in there very disappointed. They tried their hearts out but unfortunately at the moment we don’t have consistency in our play to put pressure on teams like Wales. We do some good things and then fall away. It’s very disappointing.”
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