Rugby World Cup 2023: Alan Jones on how to fix the broken Wallabies, Eddie Jones, Hamish McLennan

The humiliation inflicted on our players is now complete.

They must live with this forever.

In what remains, there is an element of the historic tennis clashes between Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

On any given day, anyone could win.

So it will be with Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and France, though it is an indictment of World Administration that the top four teams in the world are on the same half of the draw.

Nonetheless, where to from here?

We learnt last week that top executives at Snowy Hydro will miss out on millions of dollars in bonuses because of failure.

Then there is Qantas.

As the power Mr Joyce has been able to wield in Canberra has been exposed to public view, the reputation of Qantas has steadily lost altitude.

The rugby family are saying as the power of Hamish McLennan and Eddie Jones has been exposed to public view, the reputation of Rugby Australia has lost altitude.

Qantas has been flooded with complaints from customers about airline performance.

The rugby world is flooded with complaints from devoted supporters about the total decline, in Paris, in the performance of Australian rugby.

Yet in many ways Qantas and Snowy Hydro are domestic issues; they don’t command newspaper headlines across Europe.

Not so, rugby.

As the London Times reported on Rugby Australia, as car crash campaigns go, this was one of the all time smash ups.

After the Welsh game, the London Times wrote, “all we know for sure is that Australia have just completed one of the most miserable 80 minutes of any Australian team. Probably the

worst in Wallabies’ World Cup history”.

“The 40-6 score line was in part a reflection of Wales; they were good but so much of the Wallabies’ unravelling was self-inflicted. And so many of Jones’ decisions have backfired. He has very much been the agent of their own destruction”.

Then there is the Chairman McLennan.

The same McLennan, 12 months ago, was planning a “bright future” for the game, with talks of raising $150 million, or more, from private equity, “within weeks”.

Today, we have nothing.

The Chairman cannot hide away in a Board room and ignore this wreck and pretend that those who caused it should be charged with its repair.

Stage one of the wreck is the selection of the Team.

The first role of the head coach is to pick the best team from all available talent.

There are players everywhere of experience and ability who have been ignored – Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Pete Samu, Ned Hanigan, Liam Gill, Sean McMahon, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, James O’Conner, Tom Banks, Bernard Foley, a veritable team of forgotten men.

Is it acceptable to the family of rugby for McLennan, the Chairman, to meet secretly with Jones, last year, while assuring Dave Rennie he would be taking the Wallabies to the

World Cup.

Is it true that McLennan offered Jones $800,000 AUD this year rising to $1.5million annually after that?

Is it true that Rugby Australia now, having failed to woo private equity, will be forced to take on $90 million of debt to keep the code alive?

Is it true that Rugby Australia has already spent a $40 million loan from World Rugby, advanced ahead of the Lions Tour?

Is McLennan responsible for any of this?

Putting Jones into the job was McLennan’s call alone.

My understanding is the Chief Executive at the time, Andy Marinos, was against the move but McLennan ploughed on and appointed Jones. Marinos left.

So what is to happen?

I don’t think there is anyone who isn’t arguing that McLennan and Jones must go.

Any decisions to be taken must be taken by a Board who knows its stuff.

The current Board has one person on it with adequate rugby knowledge.

We should move to a position where every paid up member of a rugby club votes for members of the Board.

Let the Board be accountable to the rugby punter.

However, the details in relation to who will participate in a so-called review, haven’t been announced.

It is no use saying that players will be included.

The players were asked last year.

They supported Rennie.

Their opinions counted for nothing.

What to do?

I am simply saying that it should not be a long road back if we put the right people in charge.

This can easily be turned around.

Those who suggest we need wholesale change, are people searching for excuses.

McLennan has been there since 2020.

There has not been a move of any kind to encourage grass roots rugby.

One suggestion has great merit – an Australian club team, made up of players who have not played representative rugby, playing against club teams from New Zealand, South Africa,

Argentina, Fiji and Samoa.

They wear their club socks.

Give every player a wider stake in the game and give it an international flavour.

Re Coaching and Recruiting, the responsibility, as I have said, of the head coach, and he doesn’t need 11 assistants, is to pick the best team for now.

You can’t be a good coach if you are not a good selector.

Jones is a dreadful selector.

And who is he coaching for all that money?

When the Wallabies are successful, people come through the turnstiles and young people want to play the game.

Australia has had systems in place in the past that were the envy of the world – AIS Rugby Scholarships, established in every state; players given access to identified coaches.

Not so long ago, we had close to 250 Under 21 players all on the same coaching regime.

Of course, someone will now have to coach the coaches.

From the AIS scholarship holders, the program was expanded to Under 19 level, immensely beneficial in the long term to Rugby Australia and the Wallabies.

In other words, we had national teams right down to Under 19 working on the same system.

Then we had a combined Southern States National Championship in Canberra.

We picked the combined Southern States Representative Side.

They then played a quadrangular tournament with Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT from which the AIS Australian Under 21 team was picked.

Wallabies came in their droves out of that system.

In other words, we had our form of centralisation long before people even knew what the word meant.

Every year coaches would attend the Australian Schoolboys’ Championships.

We would identify, in the same manner, the talent we were seeking.

We would talk to their coaches.

We would talk to the players.

We would enthuse them with the knowledge that there was a pathway for them to embark upon.

Wallabies sent packing despite Fiji loss

We had the benefit of the RJP Marks Coaching Scheme, the brainchild of the former great Australian centre, Dick Marks, a very thoughtful rugby scholar who put together coaching programs to which reputable coaches made a contribution.

This became the manuscript for our coaching future.

It wasn’t a bad future.

We must address the way we play the game.

The ball is the bank.

Why do we mindlessly keep kicking it back to the other side?

I will tell you why.

We are bereft of ideas as to what to do with the football.

We are obsessed with what is called “pick and drive”.

A rugby forward’s job is to get the opposition forwards out of the backline.

You are not going to do that with “pick and drive”.

More of the ball needs to be played off the ground.

We have to drag opposition forwards out of our backline to release the talent in our outside backs who, in the way the game is played today, are nothing more than spectators.

It is a simple game.

You win ball and determine how you use it.

You lose ball and determine how to defend it.

To do all of these things you need skill.

We should work comprehensively on skills.

It seems the modern player works comprehensively in the gym.

The skills of how to give a pass, how to receive a pass, how to pass out of a tackle, how to technically form a maul, how to make the players’ skills interchangeable, where backs can

do what forwards are meant to do and forwards can do what backs want to do – these are the lifeblood of winning.

Australian rugby does actually have a National Technical Advisory Committee.

It has been almost totally ignored by McLennan and Jones.

Its main advice should be on the design and maintenance of a national development system; but it should also act as a Wallabies’ support group and a sounding board on the laws of

the game.

The committee has met only once in 2.5 years.

During that time, a number of key technical decisions have been made without one word of consultation from the National Technical Advisory Committee.

I presume that successful Australian coaches, of the past, like Rod Macqueen, Alec Evans, Bob Dwyer, David Clark, Dick Marks, all have been ignored.

Yet they are the ones who are familiar with how this system has worked successfully.

We have entertained an obsession with foreign and non-rugby appointees to key positions in the game.

What do we have to show for it?

And as for this notion that apparently is alive and well within Australia rugby, that we need a national competition and get rid of Super Rugby.

It is hard to contemplate anything more absurd apart from the fact that I have no idea how you generate broadcasting revenue from a national competition and keep genuine player talent in the game.

The appropriate response is to add Fiji and Japan to the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship, eventually phase in the American Eagles because America will host the World Cup in 2031.

Meanwhile, rightly or wrongly, we have become the laughingstock of the rugby world.

When the image of the Australian coach appears in stadia across France, rugby audiences boo him.

As one correspondent has said, “he is like the game’s pantomime villain. And people are laughing at how crap his team have become…”

The final word belongs to another correspondent, “It took England and the RFU too long to come to recognise how badly Jones had de-stabilised the national team. Maybe the Aussies

will see it more clearly. So, no dancing on graves. Let’s just hope that the Wallabies improve quickly when their own post-Eddie era begins, and that Japan don’t follow suit”.

Can South Africa defend the championship with goal-kicker Pollard now available?

They will be hard to stop.

Originally published as Rugby World Cup 2023: Alan Jones on how to fix the broken Wallabies and Eddie Jones

Leave a Comment