Wallabies star lifts the lid on ‘bizarre’ meetings with Eddie Jones at the World Cup – and reveals message coach sent the squad when he quit
A Wallabies star has opened up about a series of ‘bizarre’ meetings with Eddie Jones at the World Cup in France – and confirmed the defiant message the coach sent the playing group after he recently quit just 10 months into a five-year deal.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the player said many of his teammates were left confused by Jones’s mixed messages.
‘There were a couple of very bizarre meetings in the last week of the World Cup, after the Portugal game. They felt like goodbye meetings,’ the player told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘They were one-on-one meetings. Guys would come out and go ‘was that a goodbye? Don’t we have a plan for next year?’. Mate, it was bizarre.’
Jones replaced Dave Rennie as head coach in January, and immediately began his charm offensive with Wallabies fans ahead of the tournament.
Despite losing five successive Tests in the lead-up to the World Cup, Jones remained adamant he could turn things around when it mattered.
Not picking experiences campaigners such as Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley was puzzling, and Jones got many current players offside when he later declared the decorated trio weren’t ‘appropriate role models.’
The bold decision to lean on youth backfired in spectacular fashion, with Australia losing to Wales and Fiji, ensuring the Wallabies didn’t progress beyond the group stage for the first time at a World Cup.
Many players in the squad felt Hooper – who has played 125 Tests for his nation – was profoundly disrespected by Jones.
‘It [lack of leadership comments] was really disappointing and it didn’t sit well with the players at all,’ the Wallabies player said.
‘It felt like Eddie was trying to blame those guys for results from the last decade.
‘He experimented on a style of footy [at the World Cup] that hasn’t really been done before, with a really young group.
‘[It didn’t work] and he hasn’t really owned it.’
Jones certainly had one supporter firmly in his corner – embattled RA chairman Hamish McLennan.
Following a one-point defeat against Italy at the Stadio Artemio Franchi last November, McLennan had seen enough.
He convinced the RA board to move Rennie on – despite the coach having the support of the playing group – and ushered Jones in.
A five-year deal as head coach followed and in McLennan’s eyes, rugby was on the up ahead of the World Cup.
‘Nothing was going to stop Hamish,’ a source revealed. ‘He went after Eddie. Hamish went and got his man. He believed it was going to be the magic pill.’
Cracks began appearing leading into the tournament, with Jones privately bemoaning the quality of performances of Australian Super Rugby teams.
Assembling an elite coaching staff became a major struggle, with the likes of rugby league identities Brett Hodgson and Jason Ryles employed by Jones.
The coach also look to cover his tracks by declaring in an interview his focus was long term, namely the 2027 World Cup on local shores.
Come show time, Australia’s ad-lib style of play was ruthlessly exposed in France – and Jones was also forced to deny he interviewed for the Japan head coaching position.
He has repeatedly declared his future is uncertain and told the current Wallabies playing group in a WhatsApp message not to believe everything they read.
‘I am proud to have worked with you. Contrary to media reports, I haven’t signed anything [with Japan] and am going to spend the next month deciding my next move,’ the message reportedly read.
Jones then agreed to walk away, leaving the Wallabies in a shambolic state.
It wouldn’t surprise if he links up with Japan – but as fed up fans will attest, the damage from Jones’ catastrophic tenure could takes years to amend.
A Wallabies star has opened up about a series of ‘bizarre’ meetings with Eddie Jones at the World Cup in France