Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones has spoken to the media for the first time since his team’s record 40 – 6 defeat to Wales in Lyon.
The loss all but ended the Wallabies’ hopes of progressing to the quarterfinals, meaning this year’s knockout series will be the first without the Australians.
Coming under fire on several fronts, Jones discussed the Wales loss as well as his decision to leave several experienced players out of the squad.
Starting with the loss, Jones was asked what he took out of the match ahead of his team’s final pool match with Portugal on Sunday.
“There wasn’t much good, you know we were completely outplayed by Wales.
“They were far too strong for us and too disciplined. The only thing I can say for this young team is that they kept fighting.
“We had a period in the first half where we missed an opportunity to make the score 10 – 9 and ended up the other end 13 – 6. We lost a bit of oomph from that, which disappointed me.” Jones said.
When questioned about his decision to select a young squad, Jones remained adamant in his decision.
“You’re always going to get criticism, so that’s not an issue.
“I came in, and I had to build a team. I didn’t feel the team that was there was good enough to win a World Cup.
“So I decided to go with a younger squad, and I believe this is our strongest squad. But it’s not strong enough to play test rugby consistently at the moment.
“We played against Wales on the weekend, who had 850 caps, and we have 455 caps. When you take 132 out for James Slipper, it doesn’t leave you too many.”
“You don’t have to be brilliant at maths to work out that’s about twenty caps per player. When you’ve got twenty cap players, they struggle with the pressure in the high-stress environment.
“Wales just squeezed us to death, mate,” Jones concluded.
Looking to the future, the interviewer reminded Jones of a previous statement he has made about it taking four to six years to build a team good enough to win a tournament.
He was then asked if he had a chat with the powers that be within Australian Rugby about needing time to turn the Wallabies into contenders.
“Well, I think they understand, but at the same time, we wanted to be optimistic about our chances of winning the World Cup.
“In the end, we are not good enough to win a World Cup. They understand there is a rebuilding process to do there.
“At some stage, this had to happen for Australian Rugby. We had to bring in some new players and fresh blood, build a new team and create a bit of spirit.
“It comes with a bit of pain, mate, and we are going through that pain now.”
Asked about changes that need to be made to Australian Rugby as a whole, Jones took a big-picture view of the sport Down Under.
“There are systematic things that need to be changed, but that’s not really my responsibility.”
Shifting his focus back to the playing group, Jones said, “With this group of players, we need time together.
“The longer train together, the harder we train, the more connected we get, the better we’ll get.”
Getting a moment to focus on Jones as an individual, the interviewer was asked about the pressure that comes with the job and how he manages it.
“Well, you know, when I took this job specifically, I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it was going to be a difficult job.
“When you come in and you’ve been away, the expectation is pretty high. So that probably made it even more difficult.
“I just love coaching, I was thinking today I am 63, and I am out there today on the field in beautiful sunshine. Thirty-two of the best players in Australia and they are all training hard, and we are all doing our best to be better.
“To me, it is the most wonderful experience, so I can accept the criticism, and I can accept that people think I am not good enough, and it’s not for me to judge whether I am good enough or not.
“I love coaching, and I love the game, mate. I think this World Cup has been incredible.” Jones said with a twinkle in his eye.
Looking ahead to their final pool match with a slim but mathematical chance of qualification, Jones was asked about upcoming opponents Portugal, who have been one of the feel-good stories this tournament.
“They’re bloody fascinating, mate.
“I don’t know Lagisquet (Portugal head coach Patrice). I may have met him a couple of times, very briefly.
“But he reminds me of what he is doing with Portugal, it’s very similar to what we did with Japan.
“You know he has developed a style of play that suits their players. They’re a wide passing team; you know they’ve got a lot of sevens players in their backline.
“So they’ve got good feet, good passing and good coaching skills, and then they’ve got a reasonably tough pack of forwards.
“I thought they played exceptionally well against Georgia,” Jones said.
As the interview began to wind down, Jones was asked about how expected his team to respond, “I am expecting a good response, mate. I have never doubted the care of these players or the attitude of these players.
“They’re a good bunch of young men who are finding their way, and I think we will rip in on Saturday,” Jones concluded.
Changing the mood for a second, the interviewer asked Jones about how he deals with seemingly everything being against Eddie Jones, from the media to a run of form to reports of a job interview with Japan.
“That’s the first I have heard of it, mate, so it’s all news to me.” Jones said with a chuckle before continuing on, “I probably guessed some of those things were being said, but I chose to go into this job. No one has forced me to do it.
“So there is a good part of it, you know you go to a World Cup, and you have a wonderful experience which I have had.
“Or you got a World Cup and have a bad experience, and you cop it on the chin and then someone decides whether they give you another go at it or not.
“But I love this game, and you know, as I said, I have loved this World Cup. I have loved the experience of coaching a young team, but I am extremely disappointed with the results and haven’t given our supporters more to cheer about.” Jones said.
Closing the interview, Jones was asked about what the future held for him, to which he answered emphatically, “I’ll be coaching, mate. I love coaching, whether it’s the U15s or the Bordeaux U20s. I want to keep coaching a game people want to watch.
“It hasn’t been too good for this year, but we have had bits and pieces which have been spectacular rugby but not enough of it. So I just want to keep coaching, mate.” Jones concluded.