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The strategic planning error that turned Eddie Jones’ smash and grab into a botched servo hold up

Roar Rookie
27th September, 2023
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Roar Rookie
27th September, 2023
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When Eddie Jones said that the Wallabies could win the World Cup in a “smash and grab” raid, it conjured images of a rugby-style Ocean’s 11, a slickly organised operation with many cunning plans. What we got was a botched armed robbery at the local servo where the assailant was bested by the checkout attendant.

As we collectively wonder, “where to from here?”, we need, as always, to address the causes of the current debacle. It has been said that the causes lay in over 20 years of mismanagement of the code, and that factor is undeniable. But for this World Cup, the blame probably resides squarely at the feet of Hamish McLennan and anyone else involved in dropping EJ into the coaching role early this year.

A handful of Tests is simply not enough time to prepare a squad that with an unfamiliar coaching team if you want to be competitive. I get that Dave Rennie’s win-loss ratio was far from ideal, and that RA wanted to get EJ before he got a job elsewhere. But to shaft DR and then give EJ an insufficient amount of time to prepare the team was nothing short of idiocy.

Dave Rennie’s contract was paid out, so why wouldn’t he be allowed to complete the World Cup cycle, and if RA were that keen to get EJ, employ him on the basis of using the time before the 2023-27 to carefully select his coaching team, and get a solid feel for where Australian rugby is right now? Eddie would then be able to ascend to the head coaching position with more information, more time, and a better plan.

McLennan and the others who are responsible for that farcical decision should do the honourable thing, and resign forthwith without any payout. As to who they would be replaced by, that’s another matter.

Do we keep EJ and his coaching team? The big problem with sacking him is that it then poses the question of who would he be replaced by? Who, in their right mind, would sup from the poisoned chalice that is the Wallabies Head Coaching position? Then there’s the financial issue of paying him out, despite the fact that the only payout he deserves is a vitriolic and acerbic verbal one.

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I checked out the list of Wallabies’ coaches from 2003 until now. Eddie was sacked in 2005 with a win record of 57.8%; John Connolly took the team to the 2007 WC, and had a 64% record. Robbie Deans coached from 2008-2013, had a 58.6% record, and then we come to Ewen McKenzie (50%), Michael Cheika (50%), Rennie (36%), and back to Eddie, who in this iteration as coach stands with a win-loss ratio of 12.5%.

Andrew Kellaway of the Wallabies and Wallabies Coach Dave Rennie smile after winning game one of the international test match series between the Australian Wallabies and England at Optus Stadium on July 02, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

There are some good coaches in that list, but none delivered a Bledisloe or World Cup victory. It is possible that the coach and administrators who can fix Australian rugby’s woes, and maybe deliver either of those trophies, won’t emerge for a few years, and that, too, is an indictment on the state of Australian rugby.

What do we do now? I have no clear suggestions, but I dream of a time when a Wallabies Test result doesn’t leave me in a quivering foetal position, muttering “please make it stop…”

Who knows how long that will take?

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