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'I feel terrible, but...: Defiant Eddie Jones unveiled as Japan coach, JRFU reveals their version of THAT Zoom call

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14th December, 2023
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TOKYO: Eddie Jones’ Wallabies betrayal is complete.

Jones was confirmed as Japan’s coach after two interviews and a board ratification on Wednesday night and 24 hours later addressed a packed media conference as head coach, sitting alongside his friend of almost 30 years – Japan Rugby Football Union chief Masato Tsuchida.

Jones denied once again on Thursday that he formally interviewed with Japan before the World Cup, adding his conscience was clear. Japan Rugby officials explained away a discussion with Jones before the World Cup as meeting where he was asked to help the recruitment company find the right candidate.

Jones clearly didn’t look too far in coming up with a contender.

“I feel terrible about the results of Australia because I wanted to go back and change Australia. But I don’t feel any guilt at all about this process,” Jones said when asked about reports he held a Zoom job interview.

“I didn’t do an interview before the World Cup. I was asked by the recruitment agency to share my experiences with them on Japan.

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“Some people might have construed that as an interview. It certainly wasn’t an interview.

“The first interview I had with Japan was in December and that’s the only interview I’ve had.

“Apologise to Australian fans? Mate, I gave everything I could for that short period and it wasn’t good enough. I had a plan of what we needed to do and we weren’t able to do that. Rugby Australia weren’t able to support that so I decided to move on.

“I wish Australia all the best.”

The report was revealed the day of the big loss to Wales that tore a hole in the Wallabies campaign in France.

Japan Rugby CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi said he could confirm a discussion in October between the recruitment company and Jones “because they wanted to ask him about the knowledge he had about Japan. He was a source to search for the best candidate – that’s why we contacted him.”

Iwabuchi was asked by the SMH why the Zoom meeting with Jones was labelled “first round interview with the JRFU.”

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“I don’t know what you are talking about,” responded Iwabuchi. “I told you we had a conversation with Eddie Jones and the recruitment company to get information.”

The Jones downfall has been spectacular. From being cheered in the stands at Super Rugby, Jones has had his integrity questioned by Phil Waugh and been accused of being a liar by huge sections of the Australian public.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I can’t control their opinions. The only thing I can control is what I did. It sits well with me. I don’t have a problem with it. If people feel like that that’s their judgment. I can’t control that,” said Jones of the epithets.

He said he wasn’t sure what Australians who doubted him “need to believe.”

Jones said he “very honoured and privileged to be announced today” as Japan’s head coach in an opening statement.

“To be part of the push for Japan, the top four in the world is an exciting opportunity.

“I want to honour the past with a Japanese team that has real identity and has a point of difference – and give the Japanese people a team they can be proud of.”

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While Jones fielded a dozen questions – including from The Roar and The Sydney Morning Herald – the majority were from local reporters keen for his take on how he will help them rise the ranking.

Jones did briefly address his messy departure from Australia.

“With Australia, I signed for five years. I had a plan to take them to two World Cups. But there were things that needed to happen in Australia to change the system that I agreed with the chairman [Hamish McLennan] on the plan of what we were going to do,” said Jones.

“To do that they needed finances to change the system. After one year there was a break in my contract with the Australian rugby union as to whether they could fulfill those commitments.

“I felt without them being able to it would be hard for me to develop the talent in Australia to its fullest extent and I decided then that I wanted to move on.”

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Wherever Eddie goes he is box office and his announcement press conference, at Tokyo’s Japan Sport Olympic Square was attended by more than 100 reporters and camera operators.

When Jones returned to Australia after being dumped by England he spoke emotionally about his pride in representing Australia.

The fall from grace has been rapid and brutal and Sonny Bill Williams summed up the feeling of many in Australian rugby today when he said: “I could never believe in someone that I knew was pretty much full of crap. Japanese culture is all built on respect, loyalty, things that he’s shown that he’s not about.”

Jones is likely to get an easier ride in Japan which remains a second tier nation. His 2-7 record in his abominable Australian return saw the Wallabies slip to ninth in the world rankings.

The results were bad enough, but the revelation on the eve of the Wales debacle at the World Cup that he had reportedly interviewed for the Japan job – which he denied upwards of 14 times – meant many Australian rugby fans will always consider him a traitor who had betrayed the young players he put his faith in.

The shockwaves of Jones failed comeback will resonate in Australian rugby for some time. Players have spoken of their confusion at his approach. For most there will be a chance of recovery – but others, like McLennan, have been torched by standing too close to him.

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Japan national team new head coach Eddie Jones attends a press conference at Japan Olympic Square on December 14, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Japan national team new head coach Eddie Jones attends a press conference at Japan Olympic Square on December 14, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Veteran Nic White, one of those sidelined by Jones at the World Cup could see it unfolding. He also suggested that Jones, 63, might have lost the edge that made him a success in the past.

“I think Taniela [Tupou] said it as well, when you’re right in, you fully believe it because Eddie Jones is telling you, a guy who’s had so much success in World Cups. We believed in it,” White told The Roar.

“But there was an element that you knew it was a bit of an experiment because we were doing, and he was saying, something that no one else had done in the way we were trying to play.

“You kind of knew that if the rest of the world was doing it a different way, maybe there was a fair element of risk in what we were trying to do.

“There were glimpses of it [working] but after playing it a fair few times, we started to figure out it was not quite working. We were in the process of fixing it, but it was all too little, too late.”

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