Eddie Jones may have coached his last Test for the Wallabies with reports he is open to strike a deal with Rugby Australia over an early exit from his contract in the wake of the team’s World Cup failure.
The Sydney Morning Herald says Jones is open to moving on from the role after he has been continuously linked to returning to Japan to oversee the national team. Jones continues to deny any link with that job and gave a feisty interview, also in the Herald with former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons.
“I’m so pissed off with the situation now. I’m really pissed off with what has happened. Look, I take responsibility for the bad results,”Jones said.
“But I don’t take responsibility for 20 years of decline of Australian rugby. And that’s what’s trying to be pinned on me: 20 years of decline; that I’m an unsavoury character, all these sorts of things, and anyone that knows me knows that’s not the truth. Right?
“That’s what’s trying to be pinned on me at the moment. So I don’t really care what happens after this. But I want to make sure that we’re leaving Australian rugby in a better place. And if there’s a realisation that, yes, we need to change, then it’ll be worth what I’ve done.”
Jones was again asked about his decision to cast aside veteran players Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley for the doomed Cup campaign.
“The situation reminded me of when Wayne Bennett let Wally Lewis go. No one could quite understand why, but Wally Lewis wasn’t a great role model for the rest of the team,” Jones said.
“And for those guys, I don’t think they were the right role models for the team going forward. Don’t get me wrong. They’re not bad guys. But you need guys – particularly when you’ve got a team like Australia has at the moment – you need guys who are obsessed with winning, obsessed with being good, and those three are past those stages.”
When FitzSimons contended that Jones’ assessment of Hooper seemed harsh, the Wallabies coach replied: “I stand by it, 100 per cent. He is a great guy but the timing is not right for him.”
Jones is contracted with RA until the next World Cup on home soil in 2027 on a lucrative deal.
It’s understood Jones has clauses that allow him to walk away from the Wallabies coaching job at the end of 2023.
The Roar understands that RA, too, has the ability to farewell Jones without paying him out in full should CEO Phil Waugh and chairman Hamish McLennan believe the coaching situation is untenable.
Jones told the Herald that certain conditions were discussed when he accepted the job.
“When I was asked to have a look at Australia, I said I’d only do it on certain conditions. Because I’ve seen over 20 years the deterioration in Australian Rugby, while the rest of the world moved forward,”said Jones.
“There’s very few countries now that aren’t optimising the preparation with their top players. You can call it centralisation. But to me, it’s optimisation of your top players, with the national coach having control of the preparation of your best.
“You’ve seen the quality of the teams in the quarter-finals. The Wallabies can’t live with that. And the problem is our system, which is so antiquated when you compare with the rest of the world. It’s like a Toyota Corolla from decades ago, at the beginning of professionalism.
“You put the key in and it doesn’t quite work. The demister doesn’t quite work, and you’ve got to stick your hand out to turn right. No one would buy that, and we’ve still got an antiquated system from the start of professional rugby.”
Asked if he had been given the resources to change the situation, Jones replied:
“They want to change it and that obviously takes money, like anything. Yeah, they want to upgrade, to go from a Corolla to a Tesla. It takes a lot of technology, a lot of money, a lot of effort and a lot of design.
“In reality, I saw myself as a bit of a catalyst to help change that. But this is a six-year turnaround. It’s not a short turnaround. We haven’t won the World Cup in 24 years, and we haven’t won the Bledisloe in 22 years.
“Just have a look at those two stats. But to change it you need money and you need power. And in rugby, generally money drives power, not the other way around.
“Hamish McLennan and Phil Waugh, and are 100 per cent committed to doing it, but whether they can is the $64 question.”
He said he knew the size of the challenge before accepting the role.
“You’ve only got to look at it: we’ve got one Super Rugby side that bats 40 per cent against NZ sides. And the other four bat 20 per cent. So what you’re looking for is miracles. I still think I can produce miracles. But I wasn’t able to do it .Good enough.
“But there’s two parts to being committed. There’s me being committed and there’s them being committed to make the changes. And I think they are, but Australia’s a difficult environment right now, how antiquated we are in our thinking and the way we do things, and we’re still so territorial.”
One of Jones’ closest allies, Wallabies manager Chris Webb, has already departed Rugby Australia.
Since the Wallabies’ ugly World Cup flop, the governing body has had two waves of cleanouts over the past month.
The first came in the days after the Wallabies’ pool exit earlier this month. The next has come over the past week.
The vast majority of Jones’ high-performance structure now no longer exists, including the several psychologists that were brought in to try and change the mindset of the Wallabies after years of underperformance.
That is because most were only ever signed on short-term deals given the hasty arrival of Jones as head coach.
Dan Palmer (lineout), Jason Ryles (attack) and Pierre-Henry Broncan (maul) have each finished up with the Wallabies.
Defence coach Brett Hodgson remains on the books, with the former NSW State of Origin fullback contracted through until 2024.
Strength and Conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones also remains contracted.
The future of Wallabies forwards coach Neal Hatley remains unclear.
The experienced forwards coach is contracted until the end of November. Even now, the UK-based coach is preparing for next year’s July Tests, which includes two Tests against Wales.
Jones is overseeing the Barbarians’ exhibition match against Wales in Cardiff on November 4.
His future has been the talk of the town for the past six months ever since stating on the Evening Standard podcast with Lawrence Dallaglio that he planned on leaving his role as Wallabies coach following the 2023 Word Cup. Even before then, rumours were swirling that he would leave.
The uncertainty surrounding his future has gone into overdrive over the past six weeks following a bombshell report linking him to a return to the Japan Rugby Football Union as Jamie Joseph’s replacement as head coach.
Jones insisted afterwards he has had no contact with the JFRU despite reports saying he will participate in a second interview for the vacant role.
Before signing on as Wallabies coach, Jones was assured the game’s finances would be supercharged through an injection from private equity and reform measures to allow for greater alignment.
Neither have taken place yet despite the five Australian Super Rugby franchises in principle supporting high-performance alignment.
The lack of progress with the Super states, as well as the inability to bring in new revenue, could see Jones run out of patience and instead walk.