Eddie Jones launched into a sustained rant over the “negativity” of rugby journalists as he prepared to leave for the World Cup in France.
Jones is well known for his feisty exchanges with reporters but Thursday’s press conference went to the next level.
The exasperated Wallabies coach was upset about questions over the departure of his assistant coach Brad Davis, and the lack of communication with dumped star Quade Cooper.
He ended the conference by telling journalists “you ought to give yourself upper cuts, fair dinkum.”
Jones was triggered by questions about Cooper and Michael Hooper. The Roar revealed the No.10 hasn’t taken calls from Jones or other Rugby Australia staff since he was dropped for the World Cup.
“I’ve tried to and we can’t get hold of him,” said Jones.
Asked why that might be, Jones revealed “I think he’s very upset mate” before firing back. “I don’t know why you’re going back to that. That’s probably reflective of Australian rugby. We’ve got to move on to a World Cup with a great young squad and you’re still talking about players we haven’t selected. We’ve tried to ring him, that’s all I can do,” Jones said.
“I’m disappointed the players are upset but all I can do is ring. If they don’t take your phone call you can’t talk to them.
“If I ring them and they won’t ring back, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? Tell me.”
The conference unravelled from there with Jones answering even benign questions with an attack on the reporters.
He was asked if he understood why people might not believe he had the team to win the tournament in France, despite his stated confidence.
“Yeah, fantastic mate. None of you guys think we can do any good. So that’s all right. The challenge for us as a group is to show you that we can, and show ourselves that we can. It’s just a great image for Australian rugby to have a young team ready to take on the world,” said Jones.
“I enjoy it when people say you can’t do it. And I think the team starting’s to get a real taste. Yesterday our training was the best I’ve seen by a mile and that’s on the back of four hard days in Darwin. Overnight in Arnhem Land and sleeping on sand. The boys are ready to go and we’re ready to show the world what we can do.”
Jones was asked about the difference of playing knock out World Cup games and regular Tests and was again provoked by perceived negativity.
“There’s no difference – you’ve just got to play each game as it comes. I can’t believe level of negativity here boys,” he said.
There was more when he was asked about the Maitldas.
“We take inspiration by the way that they’ve lit up Australian society and have done something fantastic. Giving young kids the opportunity to play,” said Jones.
“I know what’s wrong with Australian rugby and partly you blokes are the problem. Because you’re so bloody negative about everything. So negative about everything. Okay, so going off to the World Cup, you think we can’t win?
“You think the selection process is bad because the players complain. So I apologise for that. So we’ll go out there and do our best, boys. So if you haven’t got anything positive to say, don’t ask please.”
Jones said getting his young squad to be competitive in France was “all about timing your run.
“We don’t need to be at our best before a crux game in the World Cup and the first crux game’s going to be against Georgia,” said Jones.
“So we need to be at a level where we can beat Georgia. And we go on to the next game which is against Fiji and we go onto Wales and then Portugal and then you’re in the quarterfinals. And once you’re in the quarterfinals then you’ve got to be the best team on the day and it’s all about the timing.
“It’s about the level of tactical influence you put into your team and you build that up as you go along. But I know you blokes think we can’t do any good, so don’t ask any questions boys. Just be the pessimists you are, keep Australian rugby where it’s been.
“Complain about players that don’t get selected. Keep doing that because it’s fantastic, because we love it.”
When reporters pushed back on the 0-4 record this year, Jones acknowledged: “100%. We haven’t been good enough.”
He was asked about the bonding experience of taking the team to Arnhem Land, but it was clear he was no longer listening to the questions.
“Love this negativity it’s fantastic. We’re terrible. You know we’re terrible. Just tell us we’re terrible and we’ll prove you wrong.”
For a brief moment it appeared he might talk about rugby…
“I think we’re going to have a mighty back row. I think young [Tom] Hooper has progressed really nicely over the period of time. If you look him in the first Test against South Africa he was struggling to make a tackle and by the end of the rugby championships he made 20 tackles carried over the top of the All Black forwards and that’s the progression this team’s going to make.
“But obviously you blokes don’t think that. I can feel this negativity. I’ve got to wash myself off.”
The clincher came when a commercial TV reporter asked Jones for his World Cup farewell message to fans sitting at home.
“We’ve got a young squad here. They’re going to make some waves at France. Worst press conference I’ve ever had in World Rugby. Worst press conference. Well done boys. That is the worst I’ve ever seen.”