Making the Wallabies one of the top rugby nations in the world will go a long way to fixing the issues besetting the game in Australia, according to former coach Eddie Jones.
Jones, who coached England to last year’s World Cup final including a quarter-final win over his native country, was interviewed on the Rugby Ruckus podcast, where he addressed the recent turmoil at Rugby Australia, where CEO Raelene Castle resigned only for the man touted as the next chairman, Peter Wiggs, to follow in her footsteps.
“Australia’s got good players. There’s plenty of good players playing here and there’s plenty of good players playing overseas,” he said.
“All that political infighting tends to go away when you start winning.”
Jones also discussed the structure of Australian rugby and how to get things back on track. Amongst his solutions was reducing the number of Australian Super Rugby sides back to three – what it was when he coached the Wallabies.
“Super Rugby went from three to five [teams], probably not in the best decisions of Australian rugby and that helped loosen the club competition,” Jones said.
“Now’s the opportunity to get club rugby strong and get the top end of the game strong. Because if you can get the base of the game right – which is the club rugby – and then you get the top level right, then the middle will work out pretty good. There’s been something wrong at the bottom level and the top level of Australian rugby for me…
“As a national coach, you want your best players playing together.
“And for me, that’s having three teams and three teams where there’s competition to get into those squads and you battle each other.
“I think if you spread it out too far, you can always try and grow the game but does that add to the national team?
“At the end of the day, if the Wallabies win, people will follow rugby in Australia.”
Jones also warned against following directly in the footsteps of other rugby nations, saying good governance has to cater to that country’s unique challenges and strengths.
“It’s completely different everywhere, so the only model that’s important is the model for your country.
“The worst thing to do is to look at another country and say ‘that’s what we’ve got to do’.
“To me, Australia’s been a rugby community based on strong clubs, the strong clubs then fit into a provincial system that collects the best players and then those provincial teams play against each other to represent the Wallabies.”
Talking about coaching, Jones was scathing in his assessment of the pathways available in Australia.
“That’s one thing Australian rugby’s dropped the ball on completely. They’ve dropped the ball and the ball’s been lost in the gutter.
“We were ahead of New Zealand at one stage when the game went professional in terms of coaching development.
“I can remember my first coaching job, which was at Randwick, I went to see [Brian] ‘Boxhead’ O’Shea. He was in charge at the AIS and had a scheme of apprenticeship coaches and there was a bloke in there in the same boardshorts he’s in today: Scott Wisemantel [the recently appointed Wallabies attack coach and England’s attack coach under Jones at the World Cup].
“And they were the sort of coaches Australia produced, guys who at an early age were learning their craft. You had an old guy like Boxhead, good academic guy, who gave you sound grounding in the coaching fundamentals. Then we were lucky enough to be coached by Bob Dwyer at Randwick, who knew a thing or two about coaching…
“That sort of intellectual property’s been lost in Australia and that’s something that needs to come back. Australia needs to become the smart country in rugby.”
You can watch the full hour-long episode of the Rugby Ruckus in the player below: