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Wallabies coach Eddie Jones reflects on ‘high risk’ World Cup selections

By Finn Morton
Eddie Jones, Head Coach of Australia, speaks with Ben Donaldson of Australia prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Julian Finney - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

For better or worse, August 10 will live on in history as a significant juncture in Australian rugby history. With an eye to the future, coach Eddie Jones revealed the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squad which included some genuine surprises.

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Coach Jones named an inexperienced 33-man squad which included just eight players with World Cup experience. There was no room for the likes of Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper as Jones called upon generation next to turn the Wallabies’ woes around.

Having collected the wooden spoon in The Rugby Championship, the Wallabies were 0-4 at the time of this announcement. Their World Cup prospects appeared quite bleak.

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With a new skipper in Will Skelton steering the ship and a young playmaker in Carter Gordon, the Wallabies flew out of Sydney with a desire to prove any and all doubters wrong.

But the Wallabies haven’t done that. Two months on, the Aussies are on the brink of World Cup disaster.

Following disastrous defeats to Fiji and Wales, the Wallabies are expected to miss the quarterfinals for the first time –Jones’ “high risk” changes to the playing group have backfired. But the coach is adamant that “this team is going to be a good team” in the future.

“When I came in, I assessed the playing pool and said we needed to make a change and it was high risk,” Jones said on Friday. “You know, we catch one kick against Fiji and maybe we’re sitting here already qualified for the quarterfinals. They’re the small things that happen that sometimes can affect you, your obvious progress.

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“But this team is going to be a good team. We need one or two quality players to add to it.

“We’re not the finished product yet but if you look at the players… then you add in (Angus) Bell, 23, loose-head prop, (Taniela) Tupou, Fraser McReight, (Rob) Valenti is 25, (Tate) McDermott is 25. Donaldson, Mark (Nawaqanitawase), (Max) Jorgensen. Now you are talking about eight or 10 players that have the potential to be really good Test players.

“Then you add in a few experienced players like Will (Skelton), Richie Arnold, a couple of hard guys like (Samu) Kerevi and you get those guys back to their best. With that group of people, that’s a team that can do really well.”

The Wallabies can still qualify for the quarterfinals but they need a rugby miracle on Sunday evening. Portugal needs to beat Fiji by eight points or more and stop them from getting a four-try bonus point.

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