Donaldson repays coach Jones' faith in World Cup win

Sun, Sep 10, 2023, 8:06 AM
by AAP
Ben Donaldson repaid the faith shown by coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Getty Images
Ben Donaldson repaid the faith shown by coach Eddie Jones. Photo: Getty Images

Match-winner Ben Donaldson says the faith shown in him by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones gave him belief he could deliver on rugby's biggest stage.

Donaldson scored 25 points - including two tries - in Australia's 35-15 victory over Georgia to open their World Cup campaign in Paris in style.

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The 24-year-old has had a rollercoaster year with poor Super Rugby form and a contract squeeze leading to his departure from the Waratahs to the Western Force for the 2024 season.

But Jones still picked him for the Wallabies training camp in April and in a shock move for the World Cup ahead of veteran Quade Cooper.

Jones then turned to Donaldson to solve Australia's goal-kicking woes, selecting him for his first start at fullback in place of the highly rated Andrew Kellaway.

Playing in just his fourth Test, Donaldson said the backing of Jones had bolstered his confidence.

"I didn't have the best year in Super but to get the backing from him (Jones) from the get-go - he's a world-class coach so whenever he picks you in a squad, you feel like you're doing something right so his backing just meant the world to me," Donaldson said.

"And then that meant I worked even harder to put the faith back in him and I'm just glad that we could put a performance out there for him."

His Test debut in Florence late last year ended in tears when Donaldson missed an 82nd minute penalty that cost the Wallabies their first-ever loss to Italy.

Taking over the kicking duties from five-eighth Carter Gordon at Stade de France on Sunday (AEST), Donaldson's first conversion failed but he was on target with six further strikes to add a crucial 15 points to the scoreboard.

Donaldson didn't dwell on the Italy miss but said it made him work harder on his skill.

"You can put your head down and dwell on it for a long time but I just took it as a learning curve," he said.

"Goal-kickers aren't going to kick goals every game so I just went back and looked at it and I probably worked harder after that.

"I was pretty pleased to slot some tonight."

The win over Georgia ended a five-game losing streak this year under Jones but Donaldson said the feeling in the Australian change-room was more excitement than relief.

"We know we're good enough to win any game we play so the boys are just really excited," the Sydneysider said.

"We've done a lot of hard work and had big build-up coming into this. But it's only one win so far. 

"We know we've got three more pool games to go (to make the quarter-finals) so we'll keep working to get back on the horse."