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'Bloody disappointed: Wallabies OUT of World Cup as nation to miss finals for first time, Eddie fights for survival

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24th September, 2023
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The Wallabies’ World Cup campaign is all but over. Whether Eddie Jones’ second tenure in charge of Australia is over remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise if this soap opera was canned after just one season.

After a historic 22-15 loss to Fiji, Warren Gatland’s Wales twisted the knife into the Wallabies’ World Cup hopes as the red in the stands turned into a sea of blood on the field by claiming an emphatic 40-6 victory before a packed house at the Olympique Lyonnais.

More blood will likely be spilt after the Wallabies’ worst defeat in a Rugby World Cup match.

Rugby Australia’s decision to parachute Jones into the head coaching role at the expense of Dave Rennie seems a catastrophic misjudgement.

Perhaps not fatal for Australian rugby but certainly an almighty blow at the start of their so-called “golden decade”.

Australian rugby was sold a Gucci handbag but what they got turned out to be nothing but a rip-off bag made in a sweat shop, with the Wallabies losing seven of eight Tests since Jones’ return in January.

Eddie Jones’ Wallabies are all but out of the Rugby World Cup after suffering their worst World Cup defeat against Wales Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

On Friday morning Jones spoke of building a team for the future ahead of the home 2027 Rugby World Cup.

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Despite a bombshell report linking Jones to another national union on Sunday, his chief executive Phil Waugh said he wanted the Wallabies coach to lead that future, too.

Whether he is a part of that future is now very much on shaky ground.

Jones said he was “bloody disappointed” with the result and that he had let the nation down.

He added that he was entirely “committed” to coaching the Wallabies going forward, saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about” with regards to a report linking him to the Japanese head coaching role.

“I came back to Australia to try and help. At the moment I’m not giving much help, am I? But that doesn’t mean my commitment to help has changed. I’m a proud Australian and I hate to see Australian rugby do as poorly as we’ve been doing, particularly under my reign, I came back to try and help,” Jones said.

“There’s not only the Wallabies we’ve got to improve, we’ve got to improve the whole system in Australian rugby. That’s not an excuse, but we’ve got to have a really good look at ourselves and see what we’ve got to do to improve the way we’re going about our rugby.”

Samu Kerevi reacts after the Wallabies’ loss to Wales at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Every move Jones has made since returning to Australian rugby, at least in the short term, has blown up in smoke.

From appointing a coaching team of misfits and waving goodbye to household names and making extraordinary selection decisions, including entrusting two unproven playmakers on the world’s biggest stage, Jones’ decision-making has been found wanting.

Yet, as he did at his team announcement on Friday, Jones remained steadfast in his belief that he needed to usher through a new generation of players.

“I was put in this job to turn Australia around and I don’t think I could have done it with the players that had been playing. I think we needed a fresh change,” he said.

“Sure the young guys struggled in the environment today but unless they get that experience they’re not going to mature into the players they can be.

“This is the most painful time, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also the best learning time for a young team and young players. This is where they really learn about the game and they learn where you’ve got to be at Test level.”

The pressure will surely turn on his employers at Rugby Australia, too.

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With the game in financial crisis, Jones has been given everything, including an estimated $1 million to employ psychologists, to help change the Australian rugby landscape.

If anything, it has gone backward under his watch.

Jones covered his mouth as he watched the Wallabies unravel. He might have wished he could shut his eyes.

Their defeat was a death by a 1,000 cuts as every aspect of the Wallabies’ game from their scrum, maul, lineout, defence, kicking game and decision making was exposed.

“F–k mate, what didn’t go wrong? Toulouse-based lock Richie Arnold told reporters following the defeat.

Andrew Kellaway added: “I don’t know if it was a lack of experience, I think we just got bashed. At the set-piece they beat us, they out kicked us. They showed us how to manage a game.” 

The Wallabies react during their heavy loss to Wales. (Photo by Getty Images)

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Nor will it end any time soon, with the Wallabies to take on Portugal next weekend in Saint Etienne before having to wait in France for the final week of matches to play.

It took just 15 seconds for the Wallabies to give away their first penalty, as those breakdown woes returned.

This time, however, it was on the defensive ruck as Dave Porecki failed to roll away.

While Wales didn’t land the immediate blow they didn’t have to wait long as Gareth Davies scored after Jac Morgan left Ben Donaldson for dead in the midfield and their cunning halfback finished it off in just the third minute. It was the start of a horrible evening for Donaldson.

The Wallabies regathered and took three points soon after as Donaldson put the men in gold on the scoreboard. It could have been more had Angus Bell not spilt Richie Arnold’s lovely offload.

Donaldson fumbled Tate McDermott’s dodgy pass, but fortunately the halves rallied as the halfback eventually cleared well.

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Some early scrum dominance saw the Wallabies narrow the margin to 7-6 as Donaldson banked another three.

But a needless Tom Hooper attempted cleanout at the ruck allowed Wales to extend their lead to four points.

The Wallabies should have got some pay out of Rob Leota’s linebreak out wide after he burst onto McDermott’s ball and was tackled just 10 metres out from the line.

While Samu Kerevi’s decision to cut back on the inside rather than unleash his men out wide was mitigated by the advantage Wayne Barnes was playing, the Wallabies’ next decision and failure to execute at the lineout swung the game.

The Wallabies turned down another three points and kicked for the corner. The only issue is the Wallabies lifters fell over themselves and Wales turned defence into attack and won a 50-22.

Ben Donaldson of Australia makes a break during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Australia at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Ben Donaldson at Parc Olympique on September 24, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

It wasn’t long before 13-6 became 16-6 as Rob Valetini dove onto a loose ball at the base of the ruck and was penalised.

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Like the first half, more pain was on its way from the outside in the second half as the Wallabies were held up from the kick restart and then their scrum gave away a penalty. So much for discipline, as Wales moved to 19-6 in the blink of an eye.

Some Anscombe magic saw Wales then deliver the hammer blow as his heads up rugby and chip kick bounced into the arms of Nick Tompkins and the centre scored. Game. Set. Match.

A high tackle from Kerevi allowed Anscombe to deliver another blow in the 52nd minute.

The sight of Donaldson being replaced after 53 minutes for Carter Gordon, who was dumped to the bench following his struggles against Fiji, said it all.

Anscombe landed another penalty in the 60th minute before Morgan, who started it all as he broke free in the opening minutes of the match, scored from a maul to see Wales rub more suit into the wound.

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