Embattled Wallabies coach Eddie Jones concedes his future may yet be decided by others as he committed to seeing out his five-year contract and backed his ill-fated youth policy which resulted in Australia’s worst-ever World Cup performance.
In his first media conference since the campaign in France Jones again refuted all links to the Japan head coaching role, denied he’d spoken to “anyone”, said he had no regrets about taking on the job and pledged to leave Australian rugby in a “better place” in time for the home World Cup in 2027.
But Jones might not be able to control his own future with Rugby Australia set to conduct an independent review into Australia’s performance in France which resulted in two wins, over minnows Georgia and Portugal, as well as losses to Fiji and Wales and the first-ever exit before the quarter-finals.
“I’m not worried (about being sacked). I don’t control those things. All I can do is coach,” he said.
“I went to the World Cup, came in a short period of time, had to make a decision on the team, made a decision that we needed to go with youth.
“While the results at the World Cup weren’t the results that we wanted, I think I’ve left the Australian team in a great position to go into 2027.”
Australian rugby appears to be at rock bottom on the back of poor results, lowly television ratings and a disconnect between the national side and the public.
But this could be the catalyst that sparks change with Jones moving on from established names like Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper in favour of younger players who now have four years to build towards the next World Cup.
The youth policy was widely panned before the tournament and was justified with the two losses in the group stage, but Jones is adamant that he made the right call and that the harsh lessons learnt can actually benefit the team going forward.
“Everyone has got their own judgement, and they’re allowed to have that judgement,” he said.
“My choice was that I decided to go with youth, and I stand by that because I think we’ve got a lot of good young players who are really going to benefit from that experience at the 2023 World Cup.
“Everyone hates change because you’re uncomfortable. Everyone likes the status quo, but we had the courage – whether that’s the right courage – to make the choice that we’re going to go with a younger squad.
“I think this young squad is going to stand Australia in good stead.”
The next step, according to Jones, is for Australian rugby to become more aligned from top to bottom in a bid to become more like the top teams in the world who proved in the quarter-finals that they are a long way ahead of the Wallabies.
“(We need) everyone working together form the grassroots with little kids down at Randwick, all the way to Super Rugby teams and Wallabies teams where we all work together to put together the most powerful rugby national team we can put together,” the coach said.
“This is not a simple equation that the Wallabies are bad. Let’s be serious about this. The Wallabies are not where they need to be, but underneath all that, we need to fix the system to go forward.
“If we can do that now then we’ve got a rosy future because we’ve got great support here and we need to generate more support with better results.”
Jones signed a five-year deal back in January with a long-term view towards the 2027 World Cup on home soil, but his future remains clouded after it emerged last month that he had been linked with the Japan job.
“I’ve always been committed to Australian rugby and I want to leave it in a better place, and that’s still the job.
“It’s not absolutely my decision, is it? We’ve got a review going forward and we’ll see what happens at the end of the review.”
Whispers about a return to Japan simply won’t go away, but the veteran coach insists those reports aren’t true.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he replied when asked if he’d spoken to any third parties about a possible job interview next month.
“I haven’t been speaking to anyone.
“I’ve got no idea (where those reports have come from).”
The Wallabies have won just two of nine matches since Jones took over.