Jones adamant Wallabies can be best in the world

Tue, May 2, 2023, 12:26 AM
by AFP
Eddie Jones at the MCG | Press Conference

Coach Eddie Jones insisted Monday he had enough time to transform the Wallabies into a World Cup winning team, boosted by the imminent return of some key players from injury.

Australia have slumped to seventh in the rankings after three years under former coach Dave Rennie ahead of the September World Cup in France.

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Former England boss Jones, who is counting down to his first game in charge against South Africa in Pretoria on July 8, said his plan was to return the Wallabies to world number one.

"We're seven and so we've got work to do to get to number one, because we want to be number one," he said at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they will face the All Blacks on July 29.

"We understand what the gap is and that it'll take the coaching staff and the players to work hard and to work smart to fill the gap."

He pointed to South Africa winning the 2019 World Cup in Japan, after being similarly ranked seven a year earlier, to show what was possible.

"So in a short period of time, you could change the team remarkably, you could change an individual remarkably... And that's the job."

Asked if there was sufficient time before the Rugby Championship in July, and then the World Cup, he replied: "Plenty of time. Too much time. As I said, you only need a week to change a team so imagine in 10 weeks what we can do."

Jones held his first 33-man training camp this month, but it was without the likes of Japan-based backs Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi, along with Melbourne Rebels lock Matt Phillips -- all experienced Wallabies.

They have been nursing long-term injuries, but are close to returning with Jones travelling to Japan last week to check in on Cooper (Achilles) and Kerevi (knee).

"He ran on well, and he ran off well, so that's a start. He's obviously got to do a bit more than that," he said of veteran playmaker Cooper, who made a brief return with his club Kintetsu Liners last week.

"He's progressing really nicely, Kerevi's progressing really nicely. We've got a number of players coming back so it's really promising."

Jones kept his stance on lock Rory Arnold after he was a surprise absence from the list of overseas Wallabies who attended the camp via Zoom.

“If he’s not playing, it’s very hard to get selected. I can’t play him if he’s playing mahjong. You’re playing mahjong, well, it doesn’t get you on the team,” Jones said.

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