Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has been taken to task over unflattering comments he made about three veteran players during his ill-fated tenure with the national side. Rugby Australia (RA) officially accepted Jones' resignation as Wallabies coach on Tuesday - ending a disastrous second stint in charge for the 63-year-old.
Jones parted ways with RA less than one year into a five-year deal that was supposed to see him take Australia through to the 2027 World Cup on home soil. It came after a historically poor World Cup campaign in France where the Wallabies failed to make it out of the group stages for the first time ever - following losses to Fiji and Wales.
The veteran coach was widely criticised for leaving out three of Australia's most experienced players for his World Cup squad - with long-time captain Michael Hooper, and playmakers Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley all overlooked for younger players. Jones copped enormous backlash over the high-profile omissions before later going on to claim that the trio were "not the right role models" for the side.
“The situation reminded me of when Wayne Bennett let Wally Lewis go,” Jones said at the time. “No one could quite understand why, but Wally Lewis wasn’t a great role model for the rest of the team.
And for those guys, I don’t think they were the right role models for the team going forward. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad guys. But you need guys – particularly when you’ve got a team like Australia has at the moment – you need guys who are obsessed with winning, obsessed with being good, and those three are past those stages."
For Hooper especially, the remarks must have come as a massive shock considering he is Australia's most-capped Wallabies skipper of all time and always led from the front with his actions on the field. Responding to Jones' shock swipe in the wake of his Wallabies exit, RA CEO Phil Waugh slammed the 63-year-old for questioning the character of Hooper and the other two veteran players.
"I think it's a completely unfair comment," Waugh said. "Across Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, I think there's 280-300 Test matches between those three.
"They've all put their body on the line over a long period of time and are role models to not just their peers but young boys and girls coming through the system. So I think it is an absolutely unfair comment towards those players, given what they've contributed to rugby."
Eddie Jones and Wallabies part ways by mutual consent
Jones revealed on Monday that it was written into his deal that either he or RA could pull the pin if certain "conditions weren't met" within the first 12 months. The veteran coach stressed that he did want to continue with the Wallabies but said RA couldn't guarantee the necessary resources he needed to drive significant change.
The former coach said while he wanted to remain in the Wallabies role, it was mutually agreed with RA that he would step aside after just 10 months. Jones once again denied reports he had spoken with Japanese officials or been offered a job to take over the vacant coaching post at the Brave Blossoms.
Waugh said all along that he trusted assurances from Jones about being committed to the Wallabies and admitted he didn't approach officials in Japan to clear up any misunderstanding. "I genuinely don't think that level of inquiry is required of me, I have a very good relationship with all national unions, including Japan, I took Eddie at his word," he said. "I don't think it changes the position where we're at now, whether Eddie was to stay or go."
The RA CEO said foreign coaches such as outgoing All Blacks boss Ian Foster would be considered for the Wallabies job. World Cup-winner Stephen Larkham and fellow former Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar are considered front-runners for the role.
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