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'Load of rubbish': Eddie tees off on 'red herring' excuse for Wallabies' RWC flop, rejects Hoops issue, Lions link

1st November, 2023
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1st November, 2023
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Eddie Jones is to be reunited with eight of his World Cup Wallabies when he takes charge of a Barbarians invitation team in Cardiff – just five days after quitting as Australia coach.

And in his first public appearance since his resignation on Monday, Jones told reporters on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) he believed his job as Australia coach would have been compromised had he stayed in the role.

Jones was adamant “20 years of unsuccessful rugby” had been down to the system in Australian rugby.

It’s ironic that in his first job since the end to his dismal reign as national coach that Jones will be guiding not just eight Wallabies who failed to get past the group stage at the World Cup but also two he left out the squad amid much controversy.

For both flanker Michael Hooper, the veteran star whose exclusion was emblematic of Jones’s gamble on youth in France, and fit-again centre Len Ikitau will be in the Barbarians’ starting XV to play Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

Jones has picked six – starters Rob Leota and Rob Valetini, and replacements Angus Bell, Tom Hooper, Ben Donaldson and Andrew Kellaway – who all featured in the record 40-6 hiding by Wales that sealed Australia’s fate at the World Cup.

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Prop Taniela Tupou and Izaia Perese, also in Jones’s France squad, will be in Saturday’s starting line-up too.

Asked about his resignation in Cardiff on Wednesday, Jones told reporters: “Post-World Cup there was always going to be a decision to be made whether we were going to change Australian rugby or not.

“I went in with a plan and had a commitment from Rugby Australia what that looked like.

“When the unity of where we were going wasn’t the same – not because of the lack of desire from Rugby Australia but there’s other forces at play – then the only thing I could do was resign.

“Obviously, the results are disappointing, but I went in there with a plan to change Australian rugby, which not only involves the team but the system to put it together.

“When you’ve had 20 years of unsuccessful rugby, that’s because of the system. I went in with a plan of how to change the system and that’s unable to be changed. 

Michael Hooper and Eddie Jones

Michael Hooper and Eddie Jones (Photo by Getty Images)

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“I felt my job would be compromised for the next four years, which I wasn’t prepared to do.”

As usual, Jones had plenty of outspoken views, including some on his former England employers.

Asked how far he could have taken England at the World Cup, Jones replied: “That’s not a question, that’s a dream.”

He also had advice for Steve Borthwick, his successor who took England to the semi-finals of the World Cup, insisting the gifted Marcus Smith wasn’t a fullback and needed to be utilised at five-eighth to get the best out of him.

As for his own coaching future, Jones ruled out any prospect of returning to Australia as coach of the British and Irish Lions in 2025.

“I have moved from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere,” he said.

“I had my go with England, I loved coaching England, and I wouldn’t want to be involved in the Lions. Not at all.”

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Jones insists he does not have another job lined up. Last month it was reported that he was interviewed by Japan, whom he coached from 2012 to 2015, days before the World Cup started.

“I think it is a red herring,” he added.

“Look at Australian rugby, over the last 20 years we have had no success, limited success and we needed to change things.

“Now we are trying to say a supposed interview was the reason why Australia had a bad World Cup. That is a load of rubbish.”

Jones also played down his comments last week where he said he left Hooper out of the World Cup squad because he wasn’t the right role model for the Wallabies in France.

Jones said it was a non-issue them being in the same squad.

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“It’s a game of rugby that is a celebration of the game, 50,000 people at the stadium to see us play against Wales,” said Jones.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones speaks to the media during a Rugby Australia press conference at Coogee Oval on October 17, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones speaks to the media during a Rugby Australia press conference at Coogee Oval on October 17, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“We’ve got a good team, so it should be a great occasion for rugby. I’ve always enjoyed coaching against Warren’s teams. They’re tough and competitive.

“You know the way they’re going to play and I think that’s a strength of his teams. If you can’t win the fight you can’t stay in the game. This is going to be a different game.

“We’re the Barbarians and we want to play a bit more and open the game up. If Wales go away from that uncompromising style, it’ll be a fantastic game.”

The emotional focus in Cardiff will be on the send-off for the great lock Alun Wyn Jones, who’ll captain the Baa-Baas against the team he led with such distinction while earning a record 158 Welsh caps.

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