Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has lamented the 'terrible' task of informing a bevy of senior Wallabies players they had been left out of the squad for the looming Rugby World Cup, as he looks towards youth in an effort to reverse the side's fortunes after a brutal few years. Jones has come under fire for leaving a host of veterans out of the World Cup side, with competition set to get underway on September 10.
The likes of now former captain Michael Hooper, and a host of veteran players including Quade Cooper, Len Ikitau, Jed Holloway, Tom Wright, Ryan Lonergan, Pete Samu and Reece Hodge have all been overlooked as Jones aims to blood a new generation of Wallabies in France. His decision to do so has been highly scrutinised, with 31-year-old Will Skelton taking over the captaincy.
'REALLY BAD': Horror moment causes live TV broadcast to be cut
'THAT HURTS': All Blacks break Wallabies hears in staggering scenes
Twenty-five players out of the 33-man squad have never contested a World Cup before, with Skelton admitting he had been nervous to take Jones' call - but he added he had full faith in Jones. Skelton made his Wallabies debut in 2014, but has played just 28 Tests in total and none at all between 2016 and 2021.
Jones is backing Skelton to help instil a winning culture, having won four European Rugby Champions Cup titles while representing the Saracens and La Rochelle. He did admit however, that it had been difficult to bring about such a massive, sudden change amid the ever-dimming prospects leading up to the World Cup.
“We needed a bit of a change in generation,” Jones said. “This is the time to start bringing some of these young guys through.
“We believe this is our best chance of winning the World Cup. They’re terrible phone calls. You never like to tell the players they’re not in the squad. Don’t get me wrong, they’re more painful for the players, but for a coach they’re not the discussions you like to have.”
Will Skelton implores Wallabies fans to back young guns
Jones explained that Skelton was the ideal man for the captaincy job after his success in Europe, labelling him as a 'guy that's used to winning'. It was this that Jones believed separated him from many of his Wallabies contemporaries.
Skelton admitted he had initially been somewhat reluctant to take on the job, but said he was keen to fall in line behind Jones and try to effect the desired change in approach. He also called on Wallabies fans to get behind the team as they face a massive challenge to regain respect among their international peers.
“Very shocked, nervous were a few emotions I had when Eddie (Jones) gave me the call,” Skelton said. “I was very reluctant at first, but when the big man calls you, you tend to follow his lead and I trust his guidance.
“He asked me to just be me … I’m pretty good around the group, getting around the young boys, providing energy so I’ll keep sticking to that.
“The captaincy was never in my thoughts or in any future thoughts. I think I‘m trying to play a role here where I provide experience and add value where I can.
“Keep backing us. We’re a young squad, full of energy, we’ve been slowly building the last couple of weeks, we haven’t got the results but as a squad we’ve seen improvements and we’re ready to attack this World Cup.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.