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No players, no pathways, no results - Are we making Eddie Jones an easy scapegoat for Australia's broken Rugby system?

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Roar Rookie
4th October, 2023
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1055 Reads

Anyone who has ever coached and takes it seriously looks for patterns. Whether those are based off of players, stats, heights and weights, formats, attack structures or defensive structures, the quantitative approach in a modern setting is the standard.

Firing a coach and bringing a new one in on the eve of a World Cup is not a recognised pattern for success.

Seeing as everyone is firmly on the ‘blame-Eddie-Jones-bandwagon’, which admittedly has been exceptionally easy to jump on, it strikes me as a bit of scapegoating. Maybe this was RA’s plan all along, Jones takes the heat for what they knew was going to most likely happen – a poor campaign.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

That being said, France, Wales, Ireland and England all are unbeaten at RWC 2023. Scotland is resurgent and giving the bok supporters Darcy/Duhan inspired nightmares and the All Blacks have kicked into gear seemingly after being written off just a few short months ago.

Let’s take a tour of the opposition coaching boxes. Are they the best around?

New Zealand

How short our memories actually are, given that the calls for Ian Foster to step down were blaring 12 months ago. After thrashing Italy and a narrow loss to France, they once again are being talked about as World Cup contenders. The best coach in New Zealand is taking over after the World Cup with a task of rebuilding the All Blacks. Foster is probably not the best, but the players are some of the best, and the structures and systems are of the quality one expects from the All Blacks.

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England

Unbeaten though scrappy, they have topped the pool and are guaranteed an entry to the quarterfinals. Yet Steve Borthwick came under heavy fire from coach turned keyboard warrior Clive Woodward just over a month ago, while David Campese stated that “Steve Borthwick, is killing our sport and, in particular, both the Wallabies and England”

What we know from the last round of Eddie Jones criticism is that England has great infrastructure and an even better budget for rugby. Borthwick has proved good at Leicester, but lacks time in the saddle and has had little time to pull off his campaign, which is looking like a bit more of a “smash and grab” campaign than the one Australia conducted.

Steve Borthwick, Head Coach of England looks on prior to the Six Nations Rugby match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Imag

Steve Borthwick, Head Coach of England. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Imag

Wales

The Wales camp is probably more comparable to the Wallaby setup with Warren Gatland recalled in December 2022 after Wales decided to sack Wayne Pivac. Welsh rugby is short of players and has a lack of depth in the critical front row stocks. Added to that was a near player strike and a lot of unhappiness. Its a picture that’s similar to Australia. Yet, they are unbeaten in RWC ‘23, overcame a fiery Fijian team and trounced Australia. Gatland knows the players, has worked with them extensively and has a good balance of experience and youth. Written off before the competition, they have built success off of defense and Gatland too seems to be taking the idea of “smash and grab” quite seriously.

France

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To steal an Afrikaans adage, France is a horse of another color. Enough has been said and written about their depth, multiple divisions of rugby, academies, foreign and domestic talent etc etc.
Just consider for a moment though that coach Fabien Galthie only managed to claim one trophy as a coach pre 2020 – the Top 14 with Stade. From 2020 onwards though that picture is very different, but its easy to argue that success has come in large part due to the fact that the French systems are so powerful and well funded.

Ireland

The top seed, rightly so. Their systems had a rework which has borne fruit largely due to the influence of David Nucifora. The win streak continues for Andy Farrell and his charges. Farrell has been at the helm since 2019 and overseen one of the best periods in Irish rugby, currently on a win streak of 16. They have beaten all comers and play some sensational rugby.

Andy Farrell, the Ireland head coach, holds the Six Nations trophy after Ireland secure a Grand Slam victory during the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium on March 18, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell with the 2023 Six Nations trophy. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Which brings us back to Wallabies.

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The clarity and quality of the selections certainly are on the coach. The awful communications with the media, the Japan furore etc… all on the coach. The decision to bring in rugby league coaches is suspect at best and foolish at worst, especially considering that we didn’t see a game plan that was in any way advanced.

In sum Australia didn’t do anything that well, from set piece to open play to defense, as broken down well by The Roar’s Rugby writer Christy Doran.

Teams that have average players can be well coached and win games. Average coaches with a good player pool can win games. If anything, Chile and Uruguay have way less talent and somehow looked better coached than Australia.

What we can’t blame Eddie for is the broken system that is not producing the players and supporters to get to a final.

With the exception of Angus Bell, Rob Valentini and Taniela Tupou – who is fragile, none of the forwards selected would make one of the sides mentioned in the beginning. Would David Porecki, Nick Frost, Richie Arnold, Fraser McReight or Tom Hooper start for Ireland or Wales? Definitely not.

Player quality through participation needs to be fixed, grassroots and schools rugby along with better professional pathways need to be made a focus. Rugby Australia needs to realise they are in a gunfight with AFL and NRL, and have brought along a rubber chicken as their weapon of choice.

That’s not a problem that a national coach with a few months at the desk could solve.

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Let’s not let Eddie be the scapegoat of a broken system that desperately needs change.

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