At the Rugby World Cup in France, Australia were eliminated after the preliminary round for the first time in their history. Despite the humiliating performance, national coach Eddie Jones is not considering resigning.
Australian Rugby National Coach Eddie Jones at a press conference in Sydney.
The 63-year-old told a press conference in Sydney on Tuesday: “I’ve always been committed to Australian rugby and I want to leave it in the best possible shape.”
However, it seems questionable whether Jones’ wish will come true: “It’s not my decision. I don’t have any influence on these things, I’m just the coach,” he said, adding: “There’s a review coming, we’ll see. That’s what happens at the end of it.” His contract runs until the 2027 World Cup on home soil.
Jones, who has Australian-Japanese roots, previously coached the Australian rugby union team between 2001 and 2005 and reached the finals with the Wallabies in 2003. There the Australian team lost to England by 17:20. After stints in South Africa, Japan and England, he was rehired by the Australian Association in January 2023. Thanks to his CV, there were high hopes for his return.
But these should not happen – on the contrary. In the eight games he led before the World Cup in France, Australia managed just one win and fell to tenth in the world rankings. Jones also drew criticism for his player selection. So he left long-serving captain Michael Hooper and veterans Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley at home – instead relying on younger players. With a home World Cup in four years, it was an entirely understandable choice, but the stakes were too high. Australia started with the youngest team in the entire tournament, and the team’s inexperience was noticeable – especially in the loss against Wales (6:40) and the loss against Fiji (15:22).
Rumors about Jones’ connections in Japan
To make matters worse, Jones reportedly spoke to Japanese officials about the return of the Brave Blossoms before the tournament began. He coached them between 2012 and 2015 and built a team that surprised with its class, pace and tactical sophistication. In the 2015 World Cup, Japan was able to win a game in the World Cup for the first time – and eventually they won all three.
After the historic defeat against Wales, there have been rumors of Jones being replaced. “I’m not talking to anybody,” Jones now assured: “Where are the rumors coming from? I don’t know.” A move away from Jones and a complete rebuild four years before the World Cup on home soil are within the realm of possibility.
The problems run deep in Australia’s rugby
But the Australian media did not blame Jones alone for two-time world champions Australia’s first-ever exit in the opening round. The causes of the crisis have been clear for years. In this millennium, rugby union has lost its importance, especially at the grassroots level – namely the youth and amateur sectors. In a traditionally sports-crazy continent, rugby league is increasingly using a 13-player version and a variety of restrictive rules that make the game faster and more attractive. Additionally, there are outdated structures in the association and scouting system, which has recently resulted in Australian players now deciding to play for other countries. For a long time the Wallabies were able to write off the difficulties. However, at the 2023 World Cup in France, it became clear that contact with the world’s best had been severed – and it wasn’t just Jones’ fault.
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