Jones approached by RA over potential Australian rugby return

Rugby Australia has made preliminary contact with Eddie Jones to find out whether he would be open to a role with Australian rugby after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Jones, who was in charge of the Wallabies from 2001 to 2005, is off contract with England at the end of next year’s showpiece tournament.

Jones has remained tight-lipped about his plans for 2024 and beyond but a return to Australia for a potential tilt at the 2027 World Cup on these shores is likely to be appealing.

The Herald has been told by sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, that RA has been targeting Jones for some time.

RA is open to the possibility of Jones coming on board in a director of rugby role but is also willing to explore whether he could make a stunning return as coach of the Wallabies.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is contracted with RA until the end of 2023 and could be offered a contract extension if Australia perform well at the World Cup in France next year.

However, Rennie’s win record of 39 per cent since he took over in 2020 is not as high as RA would like it to be.

There are senior figures at RA who would love to have Jones, a proud Australian, back in the country where his coaching career began.

They believe Jones’ coaching has improved significantly since he was sacked in 2005 by the Australian Rugby Union, two years after helping the Wallabies to a World Cup final against England.

In the days after Michael Cheika stood down as Wallabies coach, following Australia’s quarter-final loss at the 2019 World Cup to England, Jones was briefly linked with a return home.

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However, RA had already lined up Rennie for the top job.

Eddie Jones arrives for England training at Coogee Oval ahead of the third Test. Credit:Getty

“I had some informal contact but nothing too formal,” Jones told the ABC at the time. “I’m committed to a two-year contract to England. It would have been difficult to get out of that contract. I think Australia have already moved in other directions.”

Jones was then pressed on whether he flagged any interest in the role.

“Not really,” he said. “I think it was a convenient conversation for the ARU to have to be honest to show they did show some interest but I don’t think they were really interested in bringing me back as Australian coach.”

It would be some story if Jones were to coach the Wallabies at the 2027 World Cup, 24 years after doing so on Australian soil.

If Jones ended up in a director of rugby role, it would take some adjusting, given he has been a head coach for the majority of his career since leaving Australia following a failed stint with the Reds in 2007.

Senior figures at RA believe there is too much Kiwi influence on Australia’s game – not just at Wallabies level. Officials are determined to bring back the best Australian coaches and reignite the national side’s unique brand of rugby, in time for a home World Cup in 2027.

Sources say RA will honour Rennie’s contract until the 2023 World Cup, no matter how the team performs in the next 12 months.

Jones has signalled his desire to return to Australia at some point, but whether he would do so in a coaching capacity is unclear.

The 62-year-old was under pressure to retain his job after England’s first Test defeat in Perth before the team won the next two matches and secured the Ella-Mobbs Trophy.

“I love my mother ringing me up in the morning saying ‘are you going to get sacked?’,” Jones said earlier this month. “My poor mother.”

A sour taste was left in Jones’ mouth after England’s 21-17 victory in the third Test at the SCG after being labelled a “traitor” by multiple Wallabies fans.

RA chairman Hamish McLennan was scathing of the remark towards Jones and said he deserved more respect.

“Eddie Jones is a great Australian coach and has made a massive contribution to the game,” McLennan told 2GB on Monday. “At the time the [Australian Rugby Union] decided not to give him a job, he’s plying his trade overseas, good on him. We should be proud of what he’s done.”

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