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'The rugby is not good enough': What Eddie Jones believes Aus needs to do differently

By Finn Morton
Eddie Jones, Head Coach of England, looks on prior to kick off of the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between France and England at Stade de France (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Incoming Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was recently asked about the state of Australian rugby, and how the sport could return to its former glory Down Under.

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It all starts with the grassroots. Players need to be better prepared for the step up to Super Rugby and beyond.

Following multiple media reports, Rugby Australia confirmed the shocking news that under fire head coach Dave Rennie had been axed eight months out from this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

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Speculation has been rife over Rennie’s future following a disastrous campaign last year, which saw the men in gold win just five of their 14 test matches.

But the rumour mill shifted into second gear after former England coach Eddie Jones was sacked by the Rugby Football Union last month.

The Wallabies appeared set on Rennie though, with the former Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors boss naming his first squad of the squad earlier this month for a training camp on the Gold Coast.

However, the writing was on the wall for Rennie.

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Super coach Jones will return to Australian shores ahead of this year’s World Cup.

A successful World Cup campaign has a potential to reignite the passionate fandom for the sport Down under, ahead of a British and Irish Lions Tour and home World Cups.

Speaking on Raging Boar Productions’ Gold Digger Rugby, Jones spoke about what Australian rugby needs to do to make players better prepared for the gruelling step up to the professional game.

“I reckon you’ve always got to go back to the roots of the game, and the roots of the game in Australia is club rugby, Jones said.

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“After the tour I went down to Randwick, sat in the sun and watched Randwick play Eastwood, and the level of rugby was pretty good. But they’re part time players.

“Make club rugby as strong as possible. To create another artificial level is not going to work because the rugby is not good enough.

“When you can’t sell out a Wallabies home game against New Zealand, they’re not going to watch an NRC game which is an artificial group of players together.

“But they’ll go down and watch a strong Randwick or they’ll go down and watch a Sydney Uni. I reckon if you made that strong comp stronger… that would be my core administration advice.”

The Australian sporting landscape is very different to what it was almost 20 years ago.

Australian rugby union is vastly different to what it used to be.

Jones hasn’t coached the Wallabies since 2005, which is roughly when the sport began to take a backwards step in terms of popularity in Australia.

Rugby union was once among the champion sports Down Under; arguably the third most popular winter sport behind Australian Rules and rugby league.

But as time went on, the sports-mad nation began to take a greater interest in other codes – and more emerging stars began to pursue careers elsewhere.

As Jones discussed, this desire to pick one sport and “get specialised at an early age” has had a flow on effect on Australian rugby.

“One of the reasons why maybe there’s a decline in Australia is that a number of kids aren’t playing double sports because there’s such an, and I call it an obsession, to get specialised at an early age now that they’re missing out on the benefits to play a double sport,” he added.

“Just as a kid growing up… we got all our basic skill training from rugby league, not from rugby union.

“Rugby union, because it’s such a complex game, and you’ve got to get it organised… the basic skill isn’t coached hard enough and that was definitely an advantage.

“I think it was Murray Mexted was talking about when he was playing against the Australian sides, how good they were at ruck raiding and being able to pass.

“That was a skill that Australia almost had over the rest of the world, and now we’ve lost that.”

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