Eddie Jones' gamble doesn't guarantee a better career for young Wallabies
The Wallabies are staring down the barrel of a pool stage exit for the first time in Rugby World Cup history. It’s a reality that players and pundits alike are struggling to come to grips with but as they do, the analysis becomes more revealing.
Of course, it was in December of 2022 when Eddie Jones was dismissed as head coach of England, leading to Rugby Australia parting ways with Dave Rennie in favour of the controversial 63-year-old.
Less than 10 months later, much drama has ensued.
The team was six games into their international season before they found themselves on the favourable side of a scoreline at the final whistle.
The winless Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup campaigns resulted in shock selections for the Rugby World Cup, with problems compounded by the team’s attack coach quitting just before boarding the flight to Europe.
Now, with two Word Cup losses from three games further fueling the fire of criticism, the Wallabies may well be packing their bags for an early return to Australian shores.
Identifying problems is no sweat for those commentating on the team’s performance, but determining whether the losses will be healthy or disastrous in the long run is where opinion can be split.
While some may suggest the experience will put young talent in good stead for the future, that perspective hinges on whether the players get that same opportunity moving forward.
“The best example of it, for me, is when they get that penalty (in the 25th minute), they kick to the corner and they literally trip over each other in the lineout. From there, Wales kick a 50-22 and go and score points at the other end.
“It just shows, they’re not singing off the same song sheet. They say all the right things, like ‘good week at training’.
“You look at the players, we were lauding (Marika) Koroibete 12 months ago as the best winger in the world, he works off the ball, unbelievable – he had three carries. Why is their system not structured to get him in the game? You just don’t see him hovering around Tate (McDermott) anymore.
“These are good players, like (Samu) Kerevi, he’s an amazing player, he has that little knock-on (in the 67th minute) under the goalposts. So, I actually don’t think it’s a skillset thing, there is definitely clearly some internal issues.
“I think (Eddie Jones) had those guys (Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper) in the squad during The Rugby Championship and I just genuinely think he didn’t expect to lose all those games. I just feel like he panicked and was like ‘Oh buggar this, I’m just going to bring in a whole new group’ and it’s just like a hit and hope. It hasn’t hit.
“And I’m not too sure how many (young players) are going to make it to the next World Cup. Some of these players’ careers could end based on these performances at this level. It’s ruthless, international sport. And if you get too many marks against your name, it not only gets hard to get back into the international squad but it gets hard to get a job at club-land because you’re tarred with that brush.
“So, although it’s an amazing feat to be selected for your country, if you’ve done it too early, you’ve seen it even at Super Rugby level, when young guys are thrust into the limelight and they’re not ready for that intensity, and that level, and the need for accuracy, and that need for professionalism day in, day out, they’re one and done.
“I feel for some of those players because they’re just not ready. Then there’s other players who have proven over a long period of time that they’re world-class and they’re looking average at the moment. That is purely down to whatever structures Eddie has put in place, it’s just clearly not clicking.”
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