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‘This wasn’t right’: Eddie Jones doubles down on infamous ‘role models’ jab

By Finn Morton
Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones poses with co-captains James Slipper and Michael Hooper during the Australian Wallabies Rugby Championship squad announcement at Sanctuary Cove on June 25, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

With one eye on the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has doubled down on his infamous “role models” dig after leaving Michael Hooper out of the World Cup squad.

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There was no room for Hooper on the plane to France as the 33-man squad set off with the weight of expectation resting on their shoulders without one of their original Rugby Championship co-captains.

Playmakers Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley were also famously left out, with then-four Test Wallaby Carter Gordon named as the sole fly-half in the group.

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The Wallabies were already 0-4 at that stage after collecting the wooden spoon in The Rugby Championship, and they went on to create unwanted history at the sport’s showpiece event with a pool stage exit.

But the worst was yet to come. Much to the surprise of the rugby world, Jones explained the staggering omission of the experienced trio by suggesting they weren’t good “role models.”

That irked fans even more. Hooper was himself a four-time John Eales Medallist and the most capped captain in Wallabies history – while the other two would’ve brought much-needed skill, grace and poise to the World Cup table.

But the man known around the rugby world as ‘Eddie’ has no regrets. It was all about building for the future with Australia set to host the men’s World Cup in 2027.

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“Not at all mate, not at all,” Jones told James Graham on The Bye Round Podcast.

“I always think you’re better off making that decision earlier. Sometimes for a coach that means a bit of pain at the start of your tenure.

“I just felt at that time, those players weren’t right for the team.

“It’s a combination of factors: it’s how you play, how you handle yourself off the field, what’s your relationship like with the younger players, are you the role model to develop that talent?

“For older players you’re looking for role models to develop the talent coming through, apart from obviously playing well.

“I just made that decision, ‘Nah, this wasn’t right,’ and we needed to just cut the ties and go forward.”

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Every rugby fan has an opinion on Eddie Jones’ stint with the Wallabies – and not many are positive. But in Jones’ defence, the Wallabies needed to change.

Jones “wanted to change the game” after returning to Australia, and many believed the coach both could and would for quite some time. The 63-year-old was seen as Rugby Australia’s savour.

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It just didn’t go to plan. Even with an eye to the future, few expected the young Wallabies to struggle so much throughout a difficult 2023 – winning just two of nine Tests.

“There was a couple of things. Firstly I thought, Australia had a barren period for 20 years. We haven’t won the Bledisloe Cup… I wanted to change things,” Jones said.

“I got there, I got to Australia… you work out who’s in the room, you work out, ‘right can I work with this group of players or do I need to change it to go where we need to go’, which is to win a World Cup in 2027.

“2023 was always going to be difficult, mate. I had three days of training before our first game in The Rugby Championship so to change the team that had been eighth or ninth to win that World Cup was always going to be problematic.

“It was about, ‘alright what can I do here to get the best result?’ And that’s not to say we couldn’t win the World Cup but the reality was we needed to build something that could win the World Cup when Australia hosts it in 2027.

“I had a look at the room and felt we’re not going to do it with these guys… I thought we’ve got to do a total rebuild here.

“There’s obviously risk with that… I’d rather set Australia up to be successful in 2027.”

 

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