Eddie Jones was right about one thing on Thursday. Australian rugby has looked back for far too long.
Always wanting someone to blame, Australian rugby has gone backwards by becoming complacent, sitting still and not dreaming big.
For too long everything has been put in the too-hard basket; tough decisions put away for another day.
Reactiveness has become the norm.
Jones, having watched the game slide away almost to the point of returning to amateurism, has shaken Australian rugby to the core and attempted to breathe fresh life into it. No prisoners have been spared.
By leaving out household names Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper (two of a handful of players known outside rugby circles), the veteran coach has questioned the very essence of what it is to be a Wallabies great. Not through words, but by actions.
Not content with merely rolling out the red carpet for his senior players and offering them Wallabies life memberships, he has cut the cord.
“Guys, we’ve moved on. That’s all been done and dusted. We’ve moved on,” he told reporters on Thursday at Sydney International Airport as the Wallabies flew to France ahead of the World Cup.
“If the players were unhappy about the selection process, so be it. We’re moving on to a new young squad that’s going to take Australian rugby forward.
“You’ve got to understand that what we’ve had here over the last eight years hasn’t been good enough. Hasn’t been good enough. And we want the opportunity for these young players to go forward. So, I’m disappointed the players are upset but all I can do is ring.”
He has done so because what the senior players think is leadership and progress has led to the same result for years. Failure, on the scoreboard at least.
It’s a brutal decision, but only time will tell if it’s the right one.
“I don’t know why you’re going back, mate,” Jones responded when probed about why Quade Cooper had not returned calls.
“And that’s probably reflective of Australian rugby. We’ve got to move on. We’re moving on to a World Cup with a great young squad and you’re still talking about a player who wasn’t selected…”
He added: “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.”
Jones earlier this year told Australian rugby supporters he’s not the Messiah.
He could yet turn out to be a martyr if the Wallabies’ year is not turned around.
After all, Jones flew back into the hot seat with only a few seconds of thought despite being warned about the bumpy seas ahead.
Indeed, the squabbling over national reform; the blossoming of a third-tier competition; the strengthening of pathways, including coaching development; and professionalising the women’s game had yet been resolved since his departure almost two decades earlier.
They are fundamental reasons why the Wallabies have gone from being the envy of the world to a flagging tier-one nation that has a 40 per cent winning record since 2016.
Jones looked like a man bearing a cross on Thursday, as he took his anger out on journalists despite entirely reasonable questions.
The issue is Jones’ World Cup squad was spared proper examination because of the late confirmation of where and when the announcement would take place.
It meant the usual tough questions were batted away because of the luxuries of being behind a laptop.
The scrambling, last-minute nature of the announcement was a far cry from the well-thought-out welcome home press conference at Matraville Sports High School in front of most of the nation’s rugby media, which was conjured up by the coach’s long-time media advisor David Pembroke.
Unfortunately, the lack of direction off the field has correlated with Pembroke stepping aside. It has led to mixed messaging off the field.
Indeed, for the first time since Jones’ return to the Wallabies coaching job in January, the veteran coach appeared out of control.
Jones quipped that he had “tricks” under his Akubra on Thursday.
Make no mistake, Jones will have them.
The former Brumbies coach doesn’t have a 90 per cent win record at World Cups for no reason.
He thrives on the big stage and plans meticulously for World Cups.
Despite appearing out of control and frankly delusional at moments over the past month, Jones is right that the Wallabies have an exciting and young squad ready to take on the world.
He has ushered through fresh leadership and talented young players, which could prove game-changing in the years to come.
But he has had to usher through change on a whim and a prayer when the stakes have been at their highest.
It’s a position Jones should not have had to find himself in.