Eddie Jones’ future as Australia head coach is in serious doubt with his side on the brink of a first-ever exit from the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup after a record defeat to Wales and explosive revelations linking Jones with becoming Japan’s next coach.
Jones, who only re-joined the Wallabies at the start of the year following his sacking by England, threatened to walk out of his post-match press conference and refused to answer further questions about a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that he had interviewed to take charge of Japan.
“I really take umbrage at the questioning about my commitment to coaching Australia,” Jones said. “I have been working non-stop since I came in. I apologise for the results, but to question my commitment to the job is a bit red hot. So I’m not going to deal with any of those questions any further. I’m happy to talk about Wales, I’m happy to talk about Portugal. If you want to keep going with the line of questioning I will excuse myself.”
The Herald reported that Jones had held a secret meeting at the end of last month with the Japanese Rugby Football Union about becoming the national side’s next head coach, despite having four years left on his contract with the Wallabies.
Jones, in the aftermath of Australia’s heaviest-ever Rugby World Cup defeat and their largest-ever loss to Wales, did his best to absorb the blame for Australia’s humbling defeat - “I haven’t done a good enough job, and I’m bloody disappointed about it.” - apologising to Australian supporters and taking responsibility.
“I can’t really judge on that,” Jones replied when asked if the move to bring him back to Australia had failed. “A process unfortunately takes time, it takes pain. Sometimes it takes more pain than pleasure. Whilst it looks like a bit of a shambles, I can guarantee you it’s not. I have to coach the team better, there is no doubt about that. That is not good enough tonight and I am responsible for that.”
All Australian eyes are now on Fiji’s game with Georgia, after Jones’ decision to change fly-half from Carter Gordon to Ben Donaldson had no effect and Australia’s set-piece faltered, heaping pressure on Jones and his coaching staff. Opting to pick a younger squad ultimately had disastrous consequences.
Bernard Foley, one of the more experienced Wallabies left out, tweeted: “It didn’t have to be like this!”. Former Wales international fly-half Jonathan Davies added that the current Wallabies were the worst Australia side he had ever seen.
Despite the devastation of Sunday, Jones still had time for one light-hearted remark, when asked if he would be having dinner with Warren Gatland. “No, I won’t be going out in Lyon. I don’t think it would be a good place for me to be tonight.”
A momentous day for Wales was clouded only by an injury to fly-half Dan Biggar, who was forced off in the 12th minute with a pectoral strain. Warren Gatland suggested that Biggar would not face Georgia but described the injury as “not significant”, with Biggar’s return likely to be in the quarter-finals.
Reaction: ‘Rock bottom for Wallabies’
Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies:
“Wales good tonight very tactically astute and clinical. Sorry but this is the worse Australia side I’ve ever seen.”
Australia fly-half Bernard Foley, who was left out of the World Cup squad by Eddie Jones:
“It didn’t have to be like this !”
Sonny Bill Williams, speaking to Australian TV:
“From a player’s point of view, I’m not following a guy that’s sitting having a meeting with another national team, potentially looking for another job days before you are hopping on the plane [to the World Cup].”
Former England fly-half Andy Goode:
“Whoever sacked Dave Rennie and employed Eddie Jones at the Wallabies needs to walk and take Eddie with him!”
Wallaby legend David Campese:
“Rock bottom for Wallabies. I have been predicting this for years after seeing the lack of rugby IQ and skills in grassroots in Australia. Ive been warning “the powers that” be but nobody listens.”
Former England fly-half Danny Cipriani:
“Wales were phenomenal, great performance. Australia will undoubtedly grow from the experience. I’d never rejoice in another man’s downfall/tough time. Eddie will either learn or he will leave.”