Wallabies rocked by Joseph Suaalii twist as Eddie Jones' job hangs in the balance

The code-hopper's $5 million move to rugby union has been thrown into doubt.

Joseph Suaalii, pictured here alongside Wallabies players.
Will Joseph Suaalii honour his deal with Rugby Australia and the Wallabies or backflip and stay in the NRL? Image: Getty

The Wallabies' embarrassing flop at the Rugby World Cup has raised questions about whether Joseph Suaalii will attempt to back out of his deal with Rugby Australia and stay in the NRL. Eddie Jones' side suffered their biggest loss at a World Cup ever on Monday, thrashed 40-6 by Wales.

It also marked Wales' biggest-ever win over Australia and destroyed the Wallabies' hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals. Unless Fiji lose both of their remaining games (to minnows Georgia and Portugal) and don't get any bonus points, the Wallabies will miss the knockout stage for the first time in World Cup history.

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The horrendous performance has many calling for Jones to step down or be sacked. But it's also led to questions around Sydney Roosters code-hopper Suaalii.

The 20-year-old will switch to rugby when his deal with the Roosters expires at the end of the 2024 season. He signed a three-year deal in March worth a reported $5 million, with an eye to playing at the next World Cup in Australia in 2027.

But leading NRL journalist Phil Rothfield reported on Monday that there are "doubts" about whether Suaalii will honour the deal. “I’ve reach out to Isaac Moses who manages Joseph Suaalii, he’s not taking calls or text messages,” Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

“But I’m hearing that you know, Suaalii, will his deal be in doubt now? Does he really want to leave a powerhouse club like the Roosters? A future in the NRL or go over and get belted? I know the British and Irish Lions are coming over here in a few years and the home World Cup.

“But I would not at all be surprised if they start investigating how to get out of that contract. This is a massive, massive story.”

Joseph Suaalii, pictured here in action for the Sydney Roosters.
Joseph Suaalii in action for the Sydney Roosters. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

NRL legend Laurie Daley suggested Suaalii's mega-money deal would see other young rugby players looking for "inflated" contracts. “There’s a lot of many at stake for young Joseph, but I also know there’s a lot of young kids after Suaalii signed that deal that will be asking for a lot of money,” Daley said. “So rugby union have created a inflated market for themselves.”

Rothfield added: “It affects their pathways in that kids are expecting decent money that isn’t there. You know yourself rugby league have gone in to the GPS schools, rugby’s traditional nursery, and they are taking most of the kids. Rugby is in massive crisis and I don’t know how they are going to get out of it.”

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Eddie Jones' job in the balance after Rugby World Cup flop

Jones' future will be discussed in a post-World Cup review, with Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh saying the Wallabies have failed to make the grade. An external review will be held after the tournament following the Wallabies' disastrous campaign in France, and Jones' job will be top of the agenda.

"I've always said for a Rugby World Cup and as a leading nation, that getting through to the semi-finals is what we should be aspiring to and anything less than that is not where we want to be,' Waugh said. "Clearly not getting through the quarter-finals would be very disappointing, for the game and the public will be disappointed."

Eddie Jones, pictured here speaking to the media alongside Wallabies captain David Porecki.
Eddie Jones speaks to the media alongside Wallabies captain David Porecki. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

Former captain Michael Hooper, who was controversially axed from Jones' World Cup squad, was a surprise supporter of the under-fire coach. Wallabies legend George Gregan also went in to bat for Jones.

"I think Eddie was chosen by RA ... not just for this World Cup, but obviously for the 'golden decade', with the Lions series and looking to build a Wallaby team that can compete in the 2027 World Cup at home," Gregan said in commentary on ITV Sport. "There's a long history here of under-performance and he's not just been brought in for this tournament but for the way going forward. So if they were to make a knee jerk reaction and change, there's no obvious alternative."

with AAP

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