‘A bloody disaster, mate’: Have Australia already got buyer’s remorse over Eddie Jones’ return?

Eddie Jones - ‘A bloody disaster, mate’: Have Australia already got buyer’s remorse over Eddie Jones’ return?

Eddie Jones and his Australia side face the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship on Saturday – Getty Images/William West

John Connolly was nicknamed ‘Knuckles’ on account of his past occupation as a nightclub bouncer and the former Australia head coach pulls no punches on his assessment of Eddie Jones’ return with the Wallabies.

“A bloody disaster mate,” Connolly says from Down Under. “How did we end up with Eddie again? He is full of it. He talks a great game but plays a terrible one. He is a charlatan, he is a failed selector. He was the captain’s pick by the chairman who just came into the job.”

Connolly succeeded Jones as Australia head coach first time around in 2006 and had to deal with the broken shell of a Wallabies squad that had lost eight out of nine Tests.

“When I took over from Eddie, the players were like beaten down sheepdogs,” Connolly said. “If you walked in a room they would have their heads down and were scared to do anything. There was no leadership. There was no development. It was a total void that took nearly a year to rebuild. I can’t believe we have made the same mistake again.”

Disregarding any personal vendettas, there will be an awful lot of uncomfortable bottoms in the Rugby Australia boardroom right now leading into the Bledisloe Cup double-header against New Zealand.

Chairman Hamish McLennan staked much of his reputation on replacing Dave Rennie with Jones in January. There was always a plan to bring Jones and his considerable intellectual property back in house following the World Cup. Once Jones was sacked as England head coach and, much to their incredulity, Rugby Australia learnt that the Rugby Football Union had not inserted any gardening leave clause in Jones’ pay-off then McLennan acted decisively.

Jones arrived with more baggage than a Maria Carey world tour but the trade-off is that he is a proven winner who can deliver results in the short term. Well at least that was the theory.

A 43-12 defeat by a South African reserve side which was probably worse than the scoreline suggested was followed by a 34-31 home defeat against Argentina. Now they take on an All Blacks side that appears to be coming to the boil just in time for the World Cup. “If I was the All Blacks, I’d look out,” Jones said straight after the loss to the Pumas – a masterclass in game mis-management which,as you can see below, led to Jones unleashing his frustration on a headset. “I quite fancy ourselves against New Zealand.”

Eddie Jones slams down headset

Eddie Jones slams down headset

Jones had made similar defiant statements prior to the South Africa game – “It will be better than the Ashes, mate” – and promised a monumental backlash against the Pumas. Neither came to pass.

England supporters will recognise many of the soundbites from promising a “smash-and-grab approach” to quoting random, unverified statistics, “Possession rugby is dead… You’ve got 75 per cent of tries being scored in three phases – 75 per cent.” The fluctuations in selection will be similarly familiar. Suliasi Vunivalu is a case in point. Jones hailed the out-of-form rugby league convert as the “best winger in the world” prior to picking him against South Africa only to drop him from the squad against Argentina. For the crunch clash against New Zealand, the experienced half backs of Nic White and Quade Cooper have been dropped for the untried pairing of Tate McDermott and the ‘Melbourne Mullet’ Carter Gordon.

In part Jones was hired to boost the profile of union in Australia where it is completely overshadowed by the twin forces of league and Aussie rules. Jones has performed that part of his brief, although not always for the right reasons. As the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald put it this week, “We’ve got Entertaining Eddie, so where’s his winning personality.”

A victory against the All Blacks would banish all the nay-sayers. Certainly McLennan betrayed no doubts in his decision to go all-in on Jones. “The wolf pack needs to calm down.”

Yet those howls will grow ever louder if Jones arrives at the World Cup with a 0-5 record, which is far from inconceivable as their final warm-up is against France. Jones was hired to give the Wallabies their swagger back. At the moment, they are just staggering.

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