Eddie Jones' brutal Wallabies task amid ridiculous World Cup rule

Are Rugby Australia wrapping up their players in 'cotton-wool' before the World Cup?

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and John Eales lifting the World Cup.
Australia won the 1999 World Cup final, which coincided with the Shute Shield at its peak and Wallabies players competing for their clubs all the way up to the tournament. (Getty Images)

Take a good hard look at the match program accompanying this article. It's from a game played between Northern Suburbs and Manly in Sydney's Shute Shield club rugby competition in 1999.

Listed across the two teams are seven former, current or future Wallabies – Tony Daly, Nathan Grey, Willie Ofahengaue, Darren Junee, Al Baxter, Troy Jaques and Graeme Bond – one Fijian international (Sam Domoni) and one Irish international, Kevin Gleeson. There's even a dual international – Scott Gourley – lurking in fourth grade.

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A few months after this match, Australia won the 1999 World Cup final, with Grey making an appearance off the bench. The Wallabies have not won a World Cup since that day yet we still persist in the belief that "cotton-wooling" our players is the best way to prepare for the tournament.

Test-quality players no longer turn out for their clubs – Michael Hooper hasn't put on a Manly jersey since 2013 – and are now being quarantined at state level. Players from across Australia's Super Rugby sides were given leave passes this weekend as part of the World Cup rotation policy introduced to ease workloads.

The 1999 Shute Shield final involving a number of Wallabies. (Image: Provided)
The 1999 Shute Shield final involving a number of Wallabies. (Image: Provided)

Under an agreement struck by the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) and Rugby Australia, they are not allowed to play for more than five Super Rugby games in a row and must be rested for three matches.

Imagine for a minute you're in NSW coach Darren Coleman's shoes. The Tahs are batting 2-6 for the season and sit two from the bottom of the table.

Already hit with a series of injuries, the enforced lay-off of several players due to the World Cup resting policy left Coleman with a bits and pieces side to take to Auckland to face the Blues on Saturday.

Predictably, they were thumped 55-21.

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Why should Coleman have to wear that on his CV? Is anyone going to leap to his defence when the knives start coming out and the axe hovers over his head?

Could you see an NRL coach agreeing to rest his star players months out from a State of Origin series?

"Continuity and consistency is what creates a good footballer. Stopping players from playing based on resting (is ridiculous)," dual international Mat Rogers told Radio SEN earlier this year.

"I get it to a degree but in a World Cup year you want to be playing and you want to be match-hard so when you go into that World Cup you are ready and raring to go.

"I just don’t think they are in touch with where their game is at." You have to wonder when those in charge will wake up to the fact.

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