Wallabies are where the All Blacks were in 2007 – it’s time to look in the mirror or risk more embarrassment


PARIS – Eddie Jones, more than likely, will depart the Wallabies over the next six weeks.

Most will say au revoir and be happy for him never to return. Not just to the Wallabies, but Australia. Cancel his passport and charge him with treason.

What will it achieve?

Not a lot, other than satisfying the many baying for blood and accountability.

But haven’t the Wallabies been going down this road for too long?

Indeed, back in early June, on the eve of the Super Rugby finals, Jones walked into the Captain Cook Hotel in Sydney and delivered some harsh, though, fair truths.

Within moments, he said Australia’s performances, both on the international stage and in Super Rugby, was tier-two worthy.

He wasn’t wrong, with no Australian participant in the Super Rugby final since 2014 and the Wallabies hovering at just over 40 per cent on the international stage in the seven years leading up to his grand return.

He asked a group of no more than a dozen for the reasons for Australia’s decline over the past two decades.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones speaks to the media during a Rugby Australia press conference at Coogee Oval on October 17, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

On the spot, many reasons were spat out. Some better than others.

Then he turned on the group, saying they were all excuses.

Again, he wasn’t wrong. Mediocrity had crept in like mould and become accepted.

Australian rugby has for too long papered over the cracks in the game, shuffling the deck chairs of the Titanic rather than attempting to usher through meaningful change.

Anyone who has attempted to do so has been booted out.

The too-hard basket has become a common feature of the game, with bureaucracy, politics, ego and power standing in the way of progress.

Agendas are everywhere in Australian rugby, with few willing to budge.

The Queensland Reds stand on the summit and profess to be the leaders yet have very little to show for it despite being one of the biggest rugby nurseries in the country.

The ACT Brumbies can hardly attract a crowd and haven’t won anything meaningful in almost two decades.

The Western Force can barely develop a player while the Melbourne Rebels have been a laughing stock for most of its existence. At least there are some green shoots developing at the Rebels.

The NSW Waratahs – one of the great underachievers in Australian rugby – have at last woken up to the fact that the status quo isn’t working.

Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan and CEO Phil Waugh have a huge task ahead of them. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Boards too often look to blame one another for the game’s shortcomings rather than engage in the difficult and necessary conversions to find solutions.

The Rugby Australia board has members on it that have promised to inject expertise and sponsorship dollars into the game yet despite Sales Force executives sitting there, even they have found reasons to not put their money where their mouth is.

If you can’t even buy what you’re selling, what hope is there?

In the end, private equity suitors walked away from RA after months of conversations.

Perhaps the penny dropped for Jones.

After all, Jones had been promised the dollars would flow back into the game. Reform measures, too.

Neither occurred.

Small wonder Jones, in the twilight of his coaching career, has been considering his options, especially given the exit clauses in his contract.

The reality is Australian rugby still can’t come to terms with the uncomfortable nature of its current state of crisis.

With all six of Australia’s men’s XVs teams winning at less than 50 per cent, Jones tried something. It backfired spectacularly. That much is true.

He will naturally be remembered for further destabilising the game should he wave the white flag and walk away from the job he returned to at the start of the year.

Is Eddie Jones about to leave Australian rugby? (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

In light of the strong links to wanting to return to Japanese rugby, it’s a stain that will be impossible to rid should he pack up his bags and leave.

But the finger pointing and anger is somewhat misdirected.

The game and the results were at a low point long before he returned. It’s easy to forget that.

For five years the Wallabies had finished the year in sixth spot on the World Rugby rankings.

They will finish 2023 in ninth spot following their historic and embarrassing World Cup pool exit.

Yet, this crisis has been a long-time in the making.

RA must take a breath, conduct its review (the 12th since the noughties) and convince its stakeholders to embrace change before pulling the trigger on its leadership.

Judgement by social media won’t help RA through its hour of need.

But if Jones is no longer involved with the Wallabies by year’s end, RA must look hard in the mirror and be prepared to put the building blocks in place to ensure they climb their way out of the mess they currently find themselves in.

If that means RA chairman Hamish McLennan following Jones out, so be it.

But it must also be said that before Jones’ selection gambles backfired so spectacularly, the returning head coach was applauded everywhere he went.

Those cheers have since been replaced by boos. But the decision to bring back Jones wasn’t without reason.

Ensuring the right people are in the right positions to oversee Australian rugby’s recovery is essential.

It’s not just the head coaching role that is crucial to get right, but the chairman and the still vacant head of high-performance manager.

Everyone can play their part.

But looking in the mirror and being prepared to ask the hard questions without side stepping anything and anyone will be a starting point.

It was good enough for New Zealand Rugby in 2007 after yet another World Cup failure, as they looked inwards rather than out despite coming under huge internal pressure from a rugby-obsessed country demanding accountability.

In the end, they didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The All Blacks have since made three of the past four World Cup finals, including this weekend’s in Paris just 15 months after the country called for Ian Foster’s head.

Whether RA can dig their way out like the NZR did will come down the decision-making of its leaders.

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