A Wallabies star has opened up about a series of ‘bizarre’ encounters with Eddie Jones at the World Cup in France – confirming the defiant message the coach sent the playing group after recently quitting a five-year contract after 10 months.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the player said many of his teammates were confused by Jones’ mixed messages.
‘There were some very bizarre encounters in the last week of the World Cup, after the match against Portugal. It felt like farewell meetings,” the player told the club Sydney Morning Herald.
‘They were one-on-one conversations. Guys came out and said ‘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 consecutive Tests in the run-up to the World Cup, Jones remained adamant he could turn things around when it mattered.
A Wallabies star has opened up about a series of ‘bizarre’ encounters with Eddie Jones at the World Cup in France
It was a tournament to quickly forget, with the Wallabies failing to progress beyond the group stage for the first time at a World Cup
It was baffling that campaigners such as Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley did not pick up any experiences, and Jones sidelined many current players when he later declared that the decorated trio were not ‘appropriate role models’.
The bold decision to lean on youth backfired spectacularly as Australia lost to Wales and Fiji, meaning the Wallabies failed to progress beyond the group stage for the first time in a World Cup.
Many in the squad felt that Hooper – who has played 125 Tests for his country – was completely 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 the results of the last ten years.
‘He experimented with a style of football (at the World Cup) that has never been done before, with a very young group.
“(It didn’t work) and he didn’t actually own it.”
Wallabies fans were left stunned after Australia were defeated 40-6 by Wales before losing to Fiji
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan convinced the board to follow Dave Rennie and usher in Jones – it turned out to be a disastrous decision
Jones certainly had one supporter firmly in his corner: controversial RA chairman Hamish McLennan.
After a one-point defeat to Italy at the Stadio Artemio Franchi last November, McLennan had seen enough.
He convinced the RA board to push Rennie through – despite the coach having the support of the playing group – and ushered Jones in.
A five-year contract as head coach followed and in McLennan’s eyes, rugby was on the rise ahead of the World Cup.
“Nothing would stop Hamish,” a source revealed. “He went after Eddie. Hamish went to get his man. He believed it would be the magic pill.”
Cracks began to appear in the build-up to the tournament, with Jones privately complaining about the quality of performance from Australia’s Super Rugby teams.
Assembling an elite coaching staff became a major battle, with Jones employing rugby league identities Brett Hodgson and Jason Ryles, among others.
The coach is also trying to cover his tracks by stating in an interview that his focus was on the long term, namely the 2027 World Cup on the local coast.
The show saw Australia’s ad-lib playing style brutally exposed in France – and Jones was also forced to deny he had applied for the head coaching job in Japan.
He has repeatedly stated that 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 have not signed anything (with Japan) and will decide my next step in the coming month,” the message read.
Jones then agreed to walk away, leaving the Wallabies in a state of disarray.
It wouldn’t be surprising if he were to forge ties with Japan, but as fed-up fans will attest, the damage caused by Jones’ catastrophic tenure could take years to repair.