Eddie Jones has been hammered by former Australia wing Drew Mitchell for his lack of transparency in the wake of the Wallabies’ first defeat to Fiji in nearly 70 years.
Australia have to win against Wales on Sunday to remain in the tournament and avoid the ignominy of becoming the first Wallabies side to never make the Rugby World Cup knockout stages.
Mitchell, who was part of the Australia side that reached the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, unleashed a two-minute rant on Jones while speaking on the Australian version of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Rugby’ podcast.
“Let’s not take away from the fact that Fiji played really well. But let’s also not take away from the fact that we f------g shouldn’t have lost to Fiji,” Mitchell said.
“Eddie sits there and goes ‘yeah, it’s my fault. I take full responsibility.’ What the f--- does that mean though? Like, he doesn’t get dropped this week. He’s not not coaching next week. It’s just like an empty f------g line in a press conference. ‘Yeah, I take full responsibility.’ Like, what does that equate to? Nothing.”
Mitchell went on to call out Jones’ decision to not select Quade Cooper or Michael Hooper for the tournament, leaving experienced operators at home in favour of young players including Carter Gordon and Tom Hooper.
“You’ve made some glaring decisions around Quade, around Michael Hooper. Captaincy, there’s six captains in seven weeks. Like, f------g explain some of these decisions to us. Because, as fans, we’re all sitting here scratching our heads. And a lot of the time we can sit there and defend Eddie or the Wallabies, because we can understand logic in some of these decisions. But there’s none of it, and he’s sat there and not actually given any explanation as to why Quade’s not there,” Mitchell continued.
“Why’s Michael Hooper not there? He said ‘Oh, because Michael Hooper’s injured.’ Well, you’ve taken [injured prop] Pone Fa’amausili. You’ve taken Max Jorgensen, and these other guys that are injured. So that’s a redundant point.
“Why the f---k have you not selected Michael Hooper? Quade Cooper? Like, come out and actually tell us as fans. Why have you not picked these guys? Because now, we’re seeing the result of you not picking some of these guys.”
Hooper, who has captained Australia more than any other player, has been working as a TV pundit back home following his omission from the squad. Speaking after the defeat to Fiji, Hooper questioned Jones’ tactical approach with substitutions.
Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui responded to Mitchell’s comments by criticising the lack of respect for his team, who comfortably defeated the Wallabies in Saint-Etienne.
”‘We f------g shouldn’t have lost to Fiji’ and why is that?” Raiwalui wrote. “It starts to get a little condescending… do our young men deserve that?”
Mitchell attempted to diffuse the situation by replying: “In no way did I mean for that to come across as condescending whatsoever. I love what you and the team are doing and thoroughly deserved to win. It was more about your point in the press conference in the resources both unions have at their disposal.”
Former Wallabies captain James Horwill also addressed the impact of Australia’s first loss to Fiji since 1954 when speaking on this week’s episode of The Telegraph Rugby Podcast.
Horwill said: “Eddie is a big character. Anything that seems off the cuff, I don’t believe that’s the case. There is a plan for what he’s doing and it’s a strategic ploy for one reason or another. Certainly his injection and the targeting of a number of high-profile rugby league players drew a lot of attention from the [Australian] media.
“Now, the media has turned on him based on the results. He’s won one game in seven. We think of the golden generation of the early 2000s, winning Bledisloes and Rugby World Cups. The country expects their national team to win. When that doesn’t happen, and we could bomb out of a World Cup for the first time ever in the pool stages, [now] the media have taken the opportunity to stick the boot in.”