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‘Sometimes you go backwards’: Eddie Jones reviews the Wallabies’ new dawn

By Finn Morton
Eddie Jones, Head Coach of the Wallabies talks to his team during an Australia Wallabies training session at the Army Barracks on August 16, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Coach Eddie Jones is yet to win a Test during his second stint with the Wallabies, with the men and gold falling to an 0-4 record during The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.

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When Rugby Australia confirmed that Jones would take over as the new Wallabies coach in January, there was a sense of excitement, intrigue and anticipation Down Under.

The Wallabies have struggled for quite some time, but Jones had a history of turning teams around and producing stunning results – especially in the short term.

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But things haven’t gone to plan.

Jones has helped breathe new life into Australian rugby union on the back of a reignited rivalry with the NRL, but the results in the Test aren’t there yet. Rugby is, after all, a results-driven business.

After collecting the wooden spoon in The Rugby Championship, the Wallabies raced out to an emphatic lead during a clash with the All Blacks in Dunedin earlier this month.

Tries to Marika Koroibete and Tom Hooper saw Australia race out to a commanding 17-3 lead, and the Dunedin crowd fell silent.

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But the All Blacks, as they often do, fought their way back to win a thriller 23-20 at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Replacement Richie Mo’unga was the hero with a last-minute penalty goal from distance.

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Ahead of the Wallabies’ final Test before the Rugby World Cup, coach Jones has reflected on the development that the young team has made since that Test in New Zealand.

“The biggest improvement, at this stage, is the mindset and the attitude of the players,” Jones told reporters this week.

“With a new captain, the team obviously operates a little bit differently, and sometimes you go backwards in some areas and you go forwards a little bit in areas.

“What I’ve seen with the squad is they’re enjoying each other’s company.

“We’re just about to start a hard training block so because of the travel we’ve had a recovery period, and certainly all the indications are they’re ready to work hard together for each other.”

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Coach Jones swung the axe through his Wallabies’ Rugby Championship squad, with Test veterans Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper failing to make the squad for the World Cup.

Rising star Carter Gordon was picked as the sole flyhalf in the squad, which is nothing short of bold from coach Jones. Gordon, 22, has only played four Tests – and started just two in the No. 10 shirt.

But the biggest surprise – both literally in terms of stature, and figuratively in regard to how unusual this call seemed – was Jones’ decision to appoint another captain.

Towering lock Will Skelton was named the Wallabies captain for the upcoming World Cup – and become the fifth player to be given ‘the C’ under Jones after just four Tests.

“What we were looking for was a leader. Captaincy is important but more a leader to bring the squad together, and Will’s been doing that all his life so he’s had plenty of practice,” Jones added.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

2
Wins
2
0
Streak
1
16
Tries Scored
14
35
Points Difference
-25
3/5
First Try
2/5
3/5
First Points
3/5
2/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

“Every team he’s played in, Saracens, La Rochelle. I was lucky enough to coach a number of the players that played with Will and they couldn’t speak highly enough for what he brought to the team.

“We went down to La Rochelle and spoke to Ronan O’Gara about his contribution to the La Rochelle team, so he’s been doing what he’s been doing for the last eight years.

“He’s not a spokesman, he’s a person who thinks about the players, thinks about what’s best for the players, how can we get them to work hard and enjoy each other’s company? He’s doing what he’s doing what he’s good at.”

The Wallabies will look to turn their fortunes around when they take on World Cup hosts France in Paris this weekend.

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finn 6 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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