Eddie Jones has revealed the reasons for bringing New Zealand World Cup winning coach Steve Hansen into the Wallabies camp in France.
Hansen has spent several days with the Australians after being invited by his mate Jones.
Hansen’s decision to help out the Australians has caused plenty of consternation in New Zealand, with veteran hooker Dane Coles expressing shock when told and admitting it “hurt a bit” to see his ex-coach behind enemy lines.
“I’ve coached against Steve since 1998 so we’ve got a long relationship, enjoy each other’s company and I always had the thought we wanted this week to be a reset week for us,” Jones told reporters in a Zoom call from France on Tuesday night.
“We’ve been through the Rugby Championship, done our Australian responsibilities and now it’s a rest so we’ve brought in Steve to have a look at what we’re doing.
“It’s purely like a mate having a beer (asking) what do you think? Where can we improve?
“We’ve also got Doug Lemov [a US coach and educator] who we’ve used previously to help with the coaches improve their coaching.
“It’s a really important professional development time for us to just get a little bit better before we go into the World Cup.”
While Coles and the Kiwis were taken aback, Hansen was warmly received by the Australian players.
“They like good people coming into camp, they want to get better and they can see the value of Steve,”said Jones.
“If you just look at his Test record, I think he’s coached 200 Tests; for the All Blacks he won I think 87%. So they like good people coming into camp and he’s a good person, so the reaction has been really positive.”
Asked what Hansen was looking at, Jones replied: “There’s two main areas: there’s training quality, which is our way of improving. And leadership of the team. So Steve is having a look at both of those areas.
“Every time he speaks there is some wisdom is what he says. When he says something, we are listening to him and how we can improve what we are doing, we are looking to to see if we can use his advice to do that.”
Jones is preparing his team for a World Cup warmup against France in Paris on Monday and acknowledges it’s a chance to get some game time into fringe team players such as Ben Donaldson and Suliasi Vunivalu.
“They’re good options and both on their arrival into France, have trained well, so they’re putting their name up to be considered for the 23 against France and certainly be good to get each of them a bit of game time,” said Jones.
“He’s trained predominantly 15 for us, but he’s done a little bit of work at 10. And as a player, who can play 10 and 15 and a goal kicker he’s a pretty important player for us. He’s got the skill set we want, which is to be able to play the game as it comes.”
Jones hinted at a more attacking style being developed that will suit Donaldson’s “natural game.”
“Coming out of Randwick that’s how we play, well that’s how Randwick play, a more natural style of game so I’ve been really impressed by what he’s doing.”
Jones said Taniela Tupou could return in Paris but Samu Kerevi and Josh Kemeny were still sidelined.
He said he had been happy with the response of his players after Bledisloe II.
“I think the biggest improvement at this stage is the mindset and the attitude of the players,” Jones said
“With a new captain, the team obviously operates differently and with that, sometimes you go backwards a little bit in some areas and go forwards a little bit in areas – but what I’ve seen with this squad is they’re enjoying each other’s company.
“We’re just about to start a hard training block, because of the travel, we’ve had a recovery period. Certainly all the indications are they’re ready to work really hard together for each other.”
New to the group is Jason Ryles, who is on his way to NRL giant Melbourne next year having left the Roosters. He replaced Brad Davis the day the Wallabies left Australia.
“He is a high quality coach, high quality character, he has a bit of fun about him,” said Jones. “As I said when we lost Brad, no-one likes to lose coaches because of personal reasons, but when he went we were going to upgrade the coaching and we done that through Jason. And he will add enormous value.”
Jones coloured in details of Ryles’ responsibilities.
“His job is just to add details of the attack. The philosophy of the attack and the strategy of the attack is my responsibility, it always has been, so his job is to add detail and even today, you know, first session out there, he’s now looking at the video looking to see how we can improve our running lines, our deception and our first phase play.”
Jones was asked to reflect on this cohort, compared to other World Cup squads he has helmed.
“Every World Cup’s different. With Australia (2003) they had an established team that we just needed to regenerate a little bit.
“This team, it’s a different project because we’ve got a young team. I think 26 of the 33 have played under 10 Tests. So we’ve deliberately gone down the path of regenerating Australian rugby.
“So how do I feel about it? I’d be a liar to say I didn’t feel like it was daunting. But at the same time, I feel there’s probably two young teams in the World Cup in the top eight and that’s us and France. So we are the teams with the most growth.
“[Challenges are] always there. We’re problem solvers. Every day a coach has to solve problems and that’s all we’re trying to do. And we’ve got to solve them quickly here.”