Eddie Jones says Wallabies can win the World Cup in first interview since replacing Dave Rennie
Bob Dwyer’s words are ringing in Eddie Jones’ ears ahead of his arrival in Australia, just seven months before he’ll take the Wallabies to the Rugby World Cup.
“I think we’ve got plenty of time,” Jones said on Nine’s Today Show after Monday’s shock announcement of his return to coach Australia, at Dave Rennie’s expense.
“(1991 World Cup-winning coach Dwyer) always used to say, ‘if you can’t change a team in a week, you can’t coach’.
“We’ve got more than a week, so let’s hope I can coach.”
In a later interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, he added the prospect of getting revenge on England following his sacking was a motivating factor but not at the forefront of his thinking while he’s also eyeing off NRL talent to boost the Wallabies’ stocks.
“I’m not thinking about England, I’m thinking about retribution because the most important thing is to get Australia playing really well and consistently well,” Jones said.
“If we happen to meet England on the way, well and good. I might have a conversation with some of the players and not with the administration. Then we’ll get on with the battle. You could maybe pick it now … the quarter-final [between Australia and England] could be in Marseille.”
Jones stressed his main priority was developing rugby players, then he wants to get a few back who have switched to league and then perhaps target some NRL stars who may not have a background in union.
“I think there is a strategic plan that needs to be put in place but the first thing is to retain the talent we do have,” he said.
“There’s three (NRL players) that come to mind. All were Australian Schoolboys and have done well in the NRL. I’m sure the allure of playing in a home Rugby World Cup might be something to attract them back.”
He said he empathised with Rennie, who had his contract terminated in abrupt fashion on Monday.
“I feel for Dave personally,” Jones told the SMH. “Having been through it myself, you understand the feeling. He’s a good man and I’m sure he’ll bounce back in another capacity.
“For me, that’s something I wasn’t in control of. The decision was made by Rugby Australia. I can only really focus on the things that I can control. I’m focusing on putting Australian rugby in a good position.”
Still in England, Jones will return to begin in his role later this month and also run the women’s Wallaroos program, the five-year deal set to carry him through a British and Irish Lions’ visit in 2025 and a home World Cup in 2027.
He had already been wooed by Rugby Australia bosses last year about a possible return to the Wallabies job in 2024, once Rennie’s contract expired.
But he was sacked as England coach in December despite a 73 per cent success rate and back-to-back series victories in Australia, RA chairman Hamish McLennan moving swiftly after Rennie’s win rate dipped to a historically low 38 per cent after three years in charge.
The decision has been typically divisive in Australia but McLennan told AAP it was a “tough call” they were happy to make in the belief Jones can help snap a 24-year World Cup title drought.
The campaign begins against Georgia in Paris on September 9, with Wales, Fiji and Portugal the other pool games.
If they finish first or second in their pool, a cross-over quarter-final against England, Michael Cheika’s Argentina or Japan – another country Jones has led to a World Cup – likely awaits.
He’ll have just five Tests before that to settle on his best team – 44 men gathered on the Gold Coast last week but there are others still in the fray – the first away to South Africa on July 8.
The Wallabies are currently ranked No.6 in the world but have recently been as low as No.8 and haven’t won back-to-back Tests in their last 17 games.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Jones, who coached Australia to the 2003 World Cup final, said on Today.
Jones was then axed in 2005, before he coached the Reds, helped Japan beat South Africa at the 2015 World Cup and led England to the 2019 Cup decider.
“It wasn’t so much satisfaction but it was nice to get the opportunity to get another go at the Wallabies and help lift Australian rugby back where we’d like it to be,” he said.
“That’s a good feeling but there is a lot of work to do.
“We’re all going to have to get in from the community clubs to the local clubs to Super Rugby and get the Wallabies winning again.”
McLennan also said Sydney product Jones’ appointment would get Australians talking about rugby again.
Success in France is the coach’s first task but he said improving the health of the code would also be on the agenda.
“Certainly in the first instance (my focus) will be the Wallabies but I’d like to play a role in that, having had a fair bit of experience around the world,” he added.
“There are a lot of systems that we can look to customise for Australia to help make sure that talent pool comes through.
“There are a lot of talented players. Like most countries, it’s how you bring that talent through to the top level.”