Eddie Jones has to go, but fate was sealed before embarrassing loss

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Now the benefit of the doubt has been removed by the Wallabies’ embarrassing 40-6 loss to Wales, judgment can be passed on Rugby Australia’s decision to sack Dave Rennie and hire Eddie Jones.

Jones deserved the benefit of the doubt – he has built up plenty of capital during a long career and remains an engaging thinker on the game.

But watching the Wallabies this year has been like watching someone try to solve the systemic issues in the banking industry by creating a cryptocurrency.

Australian rugby still has those systemic problems, but now also has a cryptocurrency – the “Wallabycoin” – that might be close to worthless.

Jones, clearly, has to go. He had to go the minute my colleague at this masthead Tom Decent broke the news that Jones had been hedging his bets by talking to Japan. How can you expect players to commit to a World Cup campaign when the coach is not all in?

It was both a bombshell and unsurprising that Jones was looking towards the exit. Despite his undoubted desire to improve Australian rugby, he always seemed to be miles apart from Rugby Australia on some fundamental issues.

Richie Arnold during the loss to Wales.Credit: AP

Amid the giddiness of Jones’ hiring, not enough was made of his previous statements that he favoured the three-team system in Super Rugby, whereas Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has committed to keeping five sides.

Jones admitted Carter Gordon was years away from being a proper Test No.10, and that the Rebels’ lack of a winning culture meant he couldn’t be adequately developed in Super Rugby.

This is an enormous issue for Australian rugby, no matter who the Wallabies coach is.

Still, it was the announcement of the World Cup squad that really suggested Jones had lost his way.

Eddie Jones in Lyon before the Wales match.Credit: AP

With Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper omitted, the Wallabies looked dangerously bereft of experience. What on earth was Tom Hooper doing in the No.7 jersey against Wales?

At that point, even the Eddie fans and Wallabycoin evangelists started quietly selling before the asset completely tanked.

Ultimately, responsibility lies with Rugby Australia, which created this mess. RA officials can’t pretend they didn’t see the risk in appointing Jones, or more accurately appointing him on the eve of a World Cup over a coach who had the support of the playing group, and who had a good coaching crew.

This masthead understands that under previous chief executive Raelene Castle, Rugby Australia conducted due diligence on Jones – speaking to those who had worked under him – and passed on him when it was looking for Michael Cheika’s replacement.

So, who follows Jones?

Candidates are thin on the ground. Leicester, having lost Steve Borthwick and his assistants to England, are likely to be extremely reluctant to allow the same thing to happen with Dan McKellar.

There are two other possibilities: Stephen Larkham and Cheika. The name of Simon Raiwalui is excluded here not due to merit, but rather the fact that he seems all in with Fiji.

Cheika may well be a better coach now than in 2019, but would he have enough backing after the turbulence of the past eight months under Jones? Larkham might be the front-runner after he returned from a spell in Ireland as a much more rounded operator.

But, the new coach can’t be the only change. The Wallabies are not a big Test team any more. This has to be the turning point.

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