Connection, Combinations and Captaincy: Eddie Jones speaks ahead of Wallabies return

Thu, Jan 19, 2023, 7:57 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Wallabies travelled to Cardiff for their final Spring Tour match of 2022.

Incoming Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is looking to galvanise Rugby supporters as he prepares to return to the role he held almost two decades ago.

Jones sat down with the media on Thursday for half an hour to discuss a variety of hot topics ahead of his return to Australia.

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Connection and cohesion were key themes throughout the discussions as Jones prepares to start in the role at the end of the month.

Having got a first-hand taste of it last July, Jones was quick to stress the importance of building the relationship across all levels of the sport ahead of a crucial period for the game.

“That’s the challenge, firstly you’ve got to play good rugby and to everyone is different,” he explained. 

"We’ve got to develop that Australian style of game that everyone buys into, which is a combination of quality set-piece, an aggressive attacking mindset, and wanting to get the ball quickly when we don’t have it.

“If we can play some good rugby, people will want to watch us play. And if we win, then we’ll be in a better position in the media, so this 15 people we’ve got now [on the Zoom call] will be 30 people...So the task is relatively simple, but the process is the difficult part.

"Everyone knows what we want to do, I’ve heard guys who I’ve coached, they tell me their sons don’t watch Rugby anymore. That happens when you’re not connected with your fans, and part of that is the winning process and part of that is how we conduct ourselves.

“There’s a clear message; we’ve got to try to become a team of the rugby community, and that’s hard in the professional era where you need to have good training camps, and you can’t spend the amount of time in the public as you used to.

“But we’re going to have to find a way to do that, it’s maybe a slight change in direction in how the team operates, having good training camps but also spending time at a school, at a local rugby club, doing some training in that environment so the young kids see their stars, and they have a conversation with a Tate McDermott or [Len] Ikitau, or Jed Holloway or James Slipper, and that conversation they have will make them want to play Rugby."

Eddie delivered a typical Eddie press conference.

He gave fascinating insights on a number of pressing issues mixed in with cheeky anecdotes about media sparring partner Peter V’Landys being ‘in the TAB too long’ to appreciate Super Rugby and using his experience as a principal to help solve the discipline issue that plagued the Wallabies in 2022.

A key topic the former Reds and Brumbies boss will have to deal with is the overseas policy or ‘Giteau Law’

“In terms of the Giteau Law at the moment, it is what it is at the moment and that's certainly something that I'll discuss a little bit further down the track,” he believes. 

"At the end of the day, we'd like to have our best players available and if some of those best players are playing overseas, we'd like to find a way for them to be available.”

One of the key selection battles this pertains to surrounds flyhalf, arguably the most important and still up-for-grabs position in the Wallabies set-up.

Jones stressed the importance of deciding his combinations early, laying greater importance on Super Rugby Pacific this season, starting with a battle between local contenders Noah Lolesio and a combination of Ben Donaldson and Take Edmed on February 24.

“I am looking for a ten who can play tough in that position, particularly in terms of decision making and be really smart about how he plays the game,” he said

“I was lucky enough to see those two young tens play live when Randwick played Eastwood post the tour, so [Tane] Edmed and [Ben] Donaldson. I have seen both of those guys play for Australia A and saw Donaldson saw in the November Test matches. So they're both young guys who are coming through.

"You have the experience of [Bernard] Foley, I have just watched him play recently live, he still has a good command of the game, you have the young guy at the Brumbies, [Noah] Lolesio, who has played a number of Tests. 

“There is good competition there but again it will be who comes through at Super Rugby that is going to have the first opportunity for Australia.

“Having said that, and it seems like a contradiction, we are also going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion.”

James O’Connor and Quade Cooper remain firmly on the radar, with Jones eager to see how they rebound from their respective injuries.

He will have limited time to get the Wallabies firing, with just five Tests before the opener against Georgia in September.

Jones also remained coy about who will lead the side into the future.

James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa were amongst those who stepped up in Michael Hooper's absence but with the inspirational flanker back and firing, the 62-year-old was eager to interview his potential candidates.

"That's going to be really important," he added.

"We need to find a captain who can galvanize the team. Whenever you change coaches or change the team environment, as what's happened, the captaincy becomes even more important.

"We need someone who can quickly galvanise the troops (and) work closely with me because every captain and every coach combination is different. So the right captain for a particular coach is not necessarily the right captain for another coach.

"It's a bit of appraisal. I have just got to walk the floor initially, find out about each of the players, meet with them face to face. I have started having some preliminary phone calls, talk to the players and then we will make hopefully an educated decision.”

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