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Eddie Jones’ rude awakening after ‘harsh learning experience’ against Fiji

By Finn Morton
Head Coach, Eddie Jones looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Fiji at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on September 17, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Thunder and lightning illuminated Saint-Etienne overnight as the Wallabies’ coaches, players and fans continued to come to terms with the disappointment of Sunday’s 22-15 defeat to Fiji.

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The doom and gloom of the French sky symbolised the state of the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup campaign, which now hangs in the balance ahead of a must-win clash with Wales in Lyon.

Playing in front of a vibrant crowd at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, the Flying Fijians held on for their first win over the Wallabies since 1954 – Australia were unbeaten in their last 18 meetings.

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Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu fell to the ground after the full-time siren in a state of euphoria and celebration, while the Australians dropped their heads in the agony of defeat.

But the sun did come up in the morning. Grey and gloomy clouds filled up the sky on Monday, but a ray of sunshine offered the Wallabies a glimmer of hope on an otherwise dark day.

Coach Eddie Jones said that while he’d woken up “hoping the result was different,” the Australians have already begun to focus on this weekend’s decisive pool clash.

“We’re moving on to Wales now. This is the best coaching week, best playing week. These are the weeks you remember when you are under the pump quite a lot and you have got to produce a good performance,” Jones told reporters on Monday.

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“We are starting to set our sights on how we need to play against Wales. The Fiji game, at the start of the game we couldn’t find our rhythm.

“Physically we got a little bit struck by them and that put us on the back foot and we never found our rhythm until maybe the last 20 minutes when we played with a bit more fluency and a bit more like ourselves.

“It’s a harsh learning experience, but one that we will take into the Wales game.”

The Wallabies fell to their sixth loss in seven Tests under coach Jones this year, and another defeat would all but end their hopes of moving past the pool stage.

Australia have never failed to qualify for the knockout rounds in the history of the Rugby World Cup, but that is firming is a very real possibility ahead of a blockbuster this weekend.

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“There are no problems with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance. Sometimes you play a team that’s a little bit better than you and if they’re better at the start of the game that puts you off,” Jones added.

“We are all still searching for answers. None of us has the 100 per cent answer. But we have ideas about where the game came unstuck.

“But Wales are a completely different team. They grind away at you whereas Fiji is power. The surprising thing about getting beaten by Fiji is that we scored two tries to one and their try came from an innocuous kick that we failed to handle.”

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