Eddie Jones' bravado coming back to bite him with Australia on brink

Eddie Jones’ bravado coming back to bite him with Australia on brink of early exit from World Cup – bullish coach ‘seeing shadows everywhere he looks’ after disastrous Fiji defeat

  • Eddie Jones’s injury-hit Australia are teetering right on the edge after Fiji defeat
  • A loss to Wales in Lyon on Sunday would all but end their World Cup hopes
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

After boldly predicting his Australia team would win the World Cup, Eddie Jones slammed reporters prior to flying to France last month, telling them to ‘give yourselves uppercuts’.

Jones told the assembled media at Sydney Airport: ‘I know what’s wrong with Australian rugby and you blokes are part of the problem.’ Bizarrely wearing a traditional Akubra hat despite being inside, Jones added: ‘Thanks for the worst press conference ever, well done.’

Jones was no stranger to outbursts in his seven years with England, but it felt like an inauspicious start to his bid to conquer the world. A month on, Jones and Australia are facing up to the possibility of an early tournament exit.

A loss to Warren Gatland’s Wales in Lyon on Sunday would if not mathematically end their quarter-final hopes, virtually do so. Jones’s injury-hit Australia are teetering right on the edge.

With his back to the wall, Jones came out fighting, insisting his Australia team will bounce back in the face of adversity despite ‘seeing shadows in every corner’.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones accepted the blame after Sunday’s disastrous defeat by Fiji

The Australians’ morale is low after they were battered physically and emotionally by Fiji. Jones has lost his two best forwards in Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou to injury. Neither will be fit to face Wales.

‘These are the weeks you remember — when you are under the pump and you have got to produce a good performance. When you have a loss like this it knocks you around a bit,’ said Jones. ‘It knocks you emotionally and team ethic-wise. You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room. There is noise from outside which you have to handle.

‘We know how we want to play against Wales and we are going to work really hard to get the players back on track. The only thing we are worried about is Wales. We would be happy to play them tomorrow if they wanted. We can’t wait for the challenge.’

Jones said he deserved personal criticism after the 22-15 defeat by Fiji in which his team was ill-disciplined and comfortably second best in the physical exchanges. Josua Tuisova and Levani Botia were outstanding for the Pacific Islanders in their first win over the Wallabies since 1954.

‘I’m used to it (criticism) but after that, I probably deserve more,’ said Jones, after the Fiji loss. ‘They should be throwing baguettes and croissants at me. It’s not good enough. I apologise.’

After taking England to the 2019 World Cup final, the final three years of Jones’ Twickenham tenure saw him cop plenty of grief for his then-underperforming team’s struggles.

When Australia decided to sack Dave Rennie and parachute Jones back in to take charge for a second time, they did so on the basis that he’d produce wins immediately. It hasn’t happened.

Jones had lashed out reporters as the Wallabies prepared to fly to France for the World Cup

Jones has just one win in seven matches, that success coming against Georgia in his team’s opening match of the World Cup. Jones does have a young and inexperienced squad but his prickly press conferences and decision to pick just one specialist No 10 in Carter Gordon for the World Cup haven’t helped him.

Jones put his faith in Gordon and left out senior figures Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper for France. It was seen by many as a gamble. Even more so when Jones pulled Carter from the field after just 50 minutes against Fiji.

The former England head coach has problems everywhere he looks. ‘We are all still searching for answers. None of us has the 100 per cent answer,’ he admitted, fronting another press conference a little over 12 hours after the full-time whistle against Fiji.

‘We are starting to set our sights on how we need to play against Wales. There are no problems with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance.’

Wales have nothing to fear against Australia for whom the absence of prop Tupou and giant lock and captain Skelton robs Jones of significant power. That was apparent against Fiji on Sunday. Hooker Jordan Uelese also won’t face Wales due to concussion.

While Jones’s problems enter double figures, old adversary Gatland has fewer concerns after Wales opened with back-to-back bonus point wins. They are top of Pool C on 10 points with Fiji and Australia both on six behind them.

Unlike Jones, Gatland has all his key players fit after almost all of his first-choice side sat out the 28-8 win over Portugal in Nice.

Fiji managed to overcome Australia with a shock 22-15 victory in the World Cup on Sunday

Only Louis Rees-Zammit, Jac Morgan and Taulupe Faletau are likely to start against Australia from the side which began the Portugal game. Gatland’s only fitness concerns are fringe forwards Tommy Reffell (calf) and Henry Thomas (hamstring).

After missing the summer warm-ups, the return to form and fitness of No 8 Faletau has been a huge boost for Wales. He scored the crucial fourth try against Portugal. ‘The more I play, the better I feel and the more I can get myself into the games,’ Faletau said. ‘With the work we’ve done, we’re very confident of what we can do.’

Faletau insisted that his team won’t have any demons in Lyon this weekend. Wales should have enough to win and if they do so, it would leave Jones and Australia in real trouble.

‘We believe we can get a result against any team on the day,’ Faletau said. ‘We’ll take confidence from the two wins but there is definitely plenty to work on going into Australia.’

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