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Saint-Etienne: Just over 12 hours after fronting the world’s media to explain a historic loss to Fiji, Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was back to tackle more hard questions and dissect just what went wrong in Australia’s second World Cup fixture.
In the aftermath of a 22-15 defeat to Fiji – Australia’s first since 1954 – there was a moment when Jones asked a World Rugby media advisor to let the press conference run longer than it should have.
On Monday morning, France time, the Wallabies intended to put up assistant coach Neal Hatley.
Instead, it was Jones, via Zoom this time, who turned up after a little sleep and time to digest arguably Australia’s worst Rugby World Cup defeat.
“I woke up [this] morning hoping the result would be different but it was still the same,” Jones said.
The back-to-back media appearances not only highlights that Jones is taking full responsibility for the loss, but also that he is relishing the intensity and challenges that the upcoming week will present.
A dejected Ben Donaldson tells the story after the Wallabies’ loss to Fiji in Saint-Etienne.Credit: Getty
If Australia do not beat Wales on Sunday in Lyon (Monday 5am AEST), there is a very real possibility the Wallabies will miss the quarter-final stages of a Rugby World Cup for the first time.
But Jones, who boasts one of the best records as a coach at a World Cup, is a fighter.
As impressive as Fiji’s game plan was against a youthful Australian side, Jones does not shy away from the fact a loss like this has the potential to unsettle the playing group.
The Wallabies have lost just three World Cup pool matches since the first tournament in 1987.
They fell to South Africa in 1995, Ireland in 2011 and Wales in 2019, and didn’t make a final in any of those World Cups.
“This is the best coaching week and best playing week,” Jones said. “These are the weeks you really remember when you’re under the pump quite a lot and you’ve got to produce a good performance. We’re setting our sights on how we need to play against Wales.
“When you have a loss like this, it knocks you around a bit. It knocks you around team ethic-wise. You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room. There is noise from the outside which you have got to handle. That’s the challenge for the coaching staff this week, to make sure they have got the right noise.
“There’s no problem with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance. But sometimes you play against a team that is a little bit better than you. We’re all still searching for answers, mate. None of us have 100 per cent of the answers but we have ideas about where the game came unstuck.”
Eddie Jones is adamant these are the kind of weeks you want to be coaching.Credit: AP
Wales are the only side in pool C with two wins but their victories over Fiji (32-26) and Portugal (28-8) have hardly put them into outright favouritism for a huge clash with Australia.
“Wales are a completely different team,” Jones said. “They are a grinding team, they grind away, whereas Fiji is a power team and hit you with counterattack, which we didn’t see much of. We just couldn’t get our rhythm. Physically we probably got a bit struck by them and that put us on the back foot. It’s a harsh learning experience but one we’ll take into the Wales game.
Meanwhile, Jones said hooker Jordan Uelese would not play against Wales due to a concussion he suffered against Fiji. Matt Faessler, who was dropped for the Fiji fixture, will come back on the bench given he is the only spare hooker in the squad along with Dave Porecki.
A number of Wallabies players spent Monday with family members who have made the trip to France. The team will begin training on Wednesday ahead of a must-win game that could seal their pool stage fate.
“I think we all wish we could play the game today against Wales,” Jones said.
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