England head coach Eddie Jones has quashed rumours that he will take the reigns as Wallabies coach after this year’s World Cup in Japan.
Jones, who coached the Australian national side for four years between 2001 and 2005, has categorically ruled himself out of contention of overtaking Michael Cheika for the job almost 15 years after he left the position under emotional and sour conditions.
The 59-year-old was one of three key contenders lined up by Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson for the role, alongside outgoing Wales head coach Warren Gatland and Glasgow Warriors boss Dave Rennie.
However, Australian-born Jones has made it a two-horse race between the Kiwi-born duo Gatland and Rennie after telling the Sydney Morning Herald that the Wallabies need a “generational change”.
“I am happy in Europe,” he said. “The Wallabies need a generational change in culture.”
The move puts pressure on Johnson to find a replacement for Cheika with the incumbent Wallabies coach’s swansong World Cup tournament just five months away.
Johnson has already actively pursued the signatures of high-profile Australian coaches to assist whoever the incoming head coach may be, with the likes of Fiji’s strength and conditioning guru John Pryor, high performance consultant Chris Webb and England attack coach Scott Wisemantel all approached.
Pryor has been deemed off limits by Fijian Rugby Union general manager Geoff Webster, while Wisemantel is believed to be open to a return to Australia following the World Cup, but shunned offers to replace Stephen Larkham in Cheika’s coaching set-up after the former World Cup-winning first-five was sacked by the Wallabies coach earlier this year.
After helping run the high performance programs of Japan and the Sunwolves, it is unclear what Webb’s stance is on joining the Wallabies, and strength-and-conditioning consultant Dean Benton is with the team on a short-term basis.
Without a full-time attack or strength-and-conditioning coach, combined with Jones’ rejection of the head coach role, Johnson and Rugby Australia have been left short-staffed jut months from the World Cup.
Jones, meanwhile, is considering his options with England, despite spurning the opportunity to return to Australia.
Contracted with England until 2021, the possibility remains that he could leave his current role following the World Cup, especially with there being a ‘break clause’ in his contract which allows him to walk away from his existing deal should England fail to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals.
Confirming his intentions to stay in Europe, it is understood a role with an emerging nation could be favoured by Jones as he looks to replicate the success he enjoyed while at the helm of Japan prior to and during the 2015 World Cup.
Nations such as Georgia and Germany have been mentioned as potential destinations, although neither Jones nor any tier two European nations have confirmed their intent to join forces.
Conor Murray speaks to RugbyPass:
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