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Dynamic young halfbacks to turn around Wallabies fortunes ahead of World Cup run

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Thursday Jul 27, 2023

Shots at the New Zealand economy, cheeky barbs at the media and setting lofty expectations for his side. Eddie Jones brought his full box of tricks to this morning’s pre-Bledisloe Cup press conference.

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Currently sitting with two losses from two outings, many other coaches would’ve been reluctant to talk up their chances against an All Blacks side who have already swept aside both Argentina and South Africa this season.

Yet, this has never been Jones’s way. Now thirty years into his coaching career, the former Randwick Hooker has taken the sizeable task of turning around not just the Wallabies but reigniting the code as a whole down under.

Whilst many will argue talk is cheap, Jones’s antics, at the very least, are bringing the focus back to a sport that had slipped out of the Australian public’s consciousness.

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As a coach who has reached the highest peaks and the lowest valleys during his career, Jones knows that there is a time limit on how long he has to achieve tangible results. In reality, however, no matter how loud the noise, two games are not even close to that limit.

Jones is in for the long haul, having signed a contract through to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Thus, the selection of the dynamic and crucially young halfback pairing of Tate McDermott and Carter Gordon makes all of the sense in the world.

Could there have been a more opportune time than in front of 80,000 fans against the All Blacks? The answer is no, the duo will either sink or swim in the long run, but for this weekend, the result is a win-win for Jones.

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Should the duo find their feet or, at the very least, show glimpses, the experiment will be hailed a success. Struggle and the reasonable Wallaby fans will call for more time and exposure.

Waiting in the wings are the experienced duo of Nic White and Quade Cooper—two men who have been there and done that. At thirty-three and thirty-five-years-old respectively, there is nothing that either could show that Jones hasn’t already seen.

In reality, it is unlikely either will be in the Wallabies frame at the conclusion of this year’s World Cup. So why waste valuable minutes? Both have already featured as starters in the opening two rounds and will be able to slot in should the McDermott and Gordon experiment be once again put on the back burner.

Given his tendency to chop and change, it would be unsurprising if ill-advised for Jones to revert back to the experienced duo.

Including this weekend’s clash, this would afford McDermott and Gordon three big test matches—two against the All Blacks and one against France. Should the most positive outcome be achieved, then these two would roll into that clash with Georgia brimming with confidence.

From here, there are four infinitely winnable games in Pool C against Georgia, Fiji, Wales and Portugal. Win all four, and the quarterfinal match-up on paper is favourable as the Wallabies will avoid the top five teams on the world rankings until the semi-finals at the earliest.

Squint and one can see a scenario in which the Wallabies, led by their young dynamic halfbacks, are playing for a place in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final.

Whilst at the time of writing, a third World Cup winners medal may feel like a pipe dream straight from the mind of Dr Seuss. Jones’s record at Rugby World Cups, combined with their dream-like run could see some bookies paying out some left-field bets later this year.

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