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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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Comments

5 Comments
D
Dane 285 days ago

His argument is and has always been wrong. The constant saying that we’re bringing in new young players and building for the future, means that these new players will soon be replaced by the next young players. No-one gets to mature and experience is neglected.

c
cs 286 days ago

Bye bye Jones.

C
Chris 286 days ago

Not a good selector. Good coach but poor selections.

F
Ferell 287 days ago

Yah Eddie it's gonna be a good team in the distant future you should have mix them up experience and youth but you are the rugby saviour but this time it bites you next time talk less and concentrate on coaching

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finn 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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