Eddie Jones’ tumultuous second coming as Wallabies coach is over.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Jones resigned on Sunday, bringing an end to a disastrous 10-month reign that saw the Wallabies collect just two of nine Tests and bow out of the Rugby World Cup at the pool stage for the first time in Australia’s history.
Speaking to the Herald regarding his resignation, Jones said he was “disappointed”.
“[I] gave it a run. Hopefully be the catalyst for change. Sometimes you have to eat s— for others to eat caviar further down the track,” Jones said.
The 63-year-old had been the subject of increasing speculation that he would walk away from his five-year contract after he was repeatedly linked with the now-vacant Japan job during the World Cup, having earlier this year already hinted that he would depart whether the Wallabies performed in France or not.
Jones told the Evening Standard Rugby Podcast in May that he would consider walking away before the first year of his contract was up, before the Herald alleged that the Australia coach had undertaken an interview for the Brave Blossoms role on the eve of the World Cup.
Jones continued to deny such claims, despite the Herald and other organizations claiming a second interview was to be held next month.
But with the Wallabies failing to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in their history, after Jones made several controversial selection decisions including the omission of former skipper Michael Hooper and veteran playmaker Quade Cooper, the walls began to close in around Jones.
His reported departure will be welcomed by a large chunk of the Australian rugby community, while it may have also spared RA a hefty payout, with a deal for the coach to exit not even a full year into his contract likely to have been struck for a far less significant sum.
Former Brumbies boss Dan McKellar is likely to be RA’s top target as Jones’ replacement, but former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika could also come into consideration for a second stint after his successful tenure with Argentina. Current Brumbies coach and Wallabies great Stephen Larkham is another option.
Jones on Friday spoke with Herald journalist Peter Fitzsimons, saying he was “pissed off” with how his second coming as Wallabies coach had panned out, but that he regretted his antagonism of the local media, which included telling the press pack to give themselves “uppercuts” following a dramatic press conference at Sydney Airport before the Wallabies flew out for France.
But he stated he had no regrets about the decision to omit Hooper, Cooper and Bernard Foley, believing the trio was no longer the right “role models” for his new-look squad.
Jones’ decision to overhaul the Wallabies squad for the World Cup drew widespread criticism, particularly his call to take only inexperienced duo Carter Gordon and Ben Donaldson as fly-half options.
The youngsters failed to fire under the pressure of World Cup play, and Australia lost to both Fiji and Wales to see their campaign effectively ended just two weeks after it had begun.
Jones’ training regime was also questioned, with star forwards Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou both suffering soft tissue injuries in the lead-up to the Fiji game, while the coach also used no less than six captains in 2023.
The attention will likely now turn to RA chairman Hamish McLennan, who was the key driver in the recruitment of Jones and the sacking of Dave Rennie. The governing body’s refusal to ask the Japanese Rugby Football Union whether it had interviewed Jones had been widely slammed, with McLennan and his chief executive Phil Waugh instead happy to take the coach at “his word” that he was not pursuing the Brave Blossoms job.
Throughout the World Cup Jones would only say that he was “committed to Australian rugby”. His refusal to put a timeframe on that commitment only added fuel to reports that he was readying himself for an exit, while the coach also grew increasingly agitated with questions about his immediate future.
Then a fortnight ago, Jones again stated he remained committed to the Wallabies. The coach had wanted greater alignment between the Wallabies and Super Rugby pathways, what he described as “optimization of your top players, rather than RA’s push for centralization, but that has already proved challenging with significant pushback from both the Reds and Brumbies.
It is also understood that Jones wanted to see a tangible investment in the game through private equity funding, which has not been forthcoming, largely due to the Wallabies’ woeful record this season.
Former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and Drew Mitchell are among those to have criticized Jones’ approach to his second coming, while the mood across the wider Australian rugby community has rarely been so despairing.