Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has named by Japanese media as the expected successor for the nation’s head coach position.
Like the Wallabies, the Brave Blossoms were sent packing early before coach Jamie Joseph walked away from the role.
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The Sydney Morning Herald reported through the World Cup that Jones took a secret job interview with Japanese rugby during Australia’s Rugby World Cup preparations.
Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh said there was “nothing in” the reports, while Jones said it was “bulls**t and gossip”.
But Japanese sports website Sponichi has resurrected the speculation, reporting Jones was the leading candidate to take over the Japanese role — despite having signed a five-year deal with Rugby Australia.
“Current Australian national team coach Eddie Jones is expected to return as the successor to Joseph,” the story read.
“This spring, Masato Tsuchida, president of the Japan Association, with whom he has had a honeymoon relationship since his days at Suntory, contacted him.
“Contract negotiations have been held privately behind the scenes, and preparations are underway for (his) return (for the first time) since the 2015 World Cup, which led them to a historic three wins.”
The report added that the Wallabies’ early exit from the World Cup may have diminished the support for Jones.
Under Jones, the Wallabies have won just two of nine matches, defeating Georgia and Portugal during the World Cup.
“The Australian team at this tournament is at a historic low, and there are growing voices questioning Jones’ ability,” the report continued.
“Last month, it was reported that he had an online meeting with the (Japan Rugby Football Union) before the tournament, which sparked criticism.
“He denies this, and the Australian Association (Rugby Australia) has also issued a statement supporting his continued participation until the 2027 (World Cup), raising the possibility that a return to Japan may be a deal-breaker.”
Kensuke Iwabuchi, the executive director of the Japan Rugby Football Union, revealed the next coach would need extensive knowledge of Japan and extensive overseas connections.
Jones has close ties to Japan, having previously coached the country from 2012 to 2015, leading them to an upset win over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup.
He is married to a Japanese woman, and reportedly has a close relationship with Japan Rugby Football Union president Masato Tsuchida.
He has led multiple nations to the World Cup final – first with Australia in 2003, and then with England in 2019, on top of being an adviser with South Africa when the Springboks won the 2007 tournament.
Jones however has vehemently denied the report.
Speaking a day after it broke, Jones had a heated clash with journalists.
When asked if he interviewed for the Japan coaching position, Jones said: “I don’t know what you are talking about mate.
“I take umbrage to people questioning my commitment to the Australia job.”
Jones then had a fiery exchange with rugby journalist Tom Decent, the reporter who first wrote the story about Jones’ interview with Japanese Rugby.
When asked if Jones had a second interview planned with Japanese Rugby, the veteran coach replied: “I said I don’t know what you’re talking about, mate”.
Jones was then pressed to give a categorical answer.
“Can you give Wallabies fans an 100 per cent commitment you will not be coach of Japan next year,” Decent asked.
Jones replied: “I have committed to coach Australia.”
Decent responded: “Next year?”.
Jones was visibly unhappy with his final response: “I have committed to coach Australia.”
Wallabies players denied hearing anything about the reports during the World Cup.
Maybe in a moment of poor timing, Jones said Australian rugby needed a high performance director but ruled himself out of the running for the role.
His tenure as coach will face a review in November.
It’s not the first time Jones’ comments have raised eyebrows.
Despite being signed to a five year deal, Jones has repeatedly floated the idea of not seeing out his deal.
“I’m only coaching ’til this World Cup,” Jones told a UK podcast earlier this year.
“I’ve signed (until the end of 2027), but as I’ve made the mistake before, I’ve stayed too long. So, we win the World Cup, it will be time to go. If we lose the World Cup, it will be time to go.”