Wallabies coach Eddie Jones says the Australian backline he has inherited has the potential to be the world’s best.
But in the same breath Jones warned that talent will count for little at this year’s Rugby World Cup in France if it’s not married with hard work, intensity and cohesion.
The 63-year-old laid out his road map at a press conference in Sydney, in his first week in the job since replacing Dave Rennie on a bumper five year contract.
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Eddie Jones starts Wallabies rebuild
”What I do know is that our players don’t lack talent. They don’t lack talent,” Jones said.
“If you did a World XV today on talent you’d have a fair few Australian players in there. You’ve just got to look potentially at the backline Australia could have, potentially.
“And you’re thinking ‘yeah, is there a better backline in the world now?’ But that doesn’t again, you know, as I said that doesn’t win you Test matches.
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“What wins you Test matches is whether you run hard to do that inside clean, whether you go back over your head, to chase a kick. And so I need to find the right balance.”
A potential World Cup backline could be Nic White, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Len Ikitau, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Tom Banks.
Five-eighth remains the biggest head scratcher, as Rennie’s first pick, Cooper, continues his rehab from a ruptured Achilles.
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Jones will leave no stone unturned in assessing the merits of the contenders and name dropped two Waratahs youngsters as being in the selection frame.
”At the end of the last England tour, I watched (Tane) Edmed and (Ben) Donaldson play against each other, Eastwood v Randwick down at Coogee Oval, and both of them have got a lot to like about them,” Jones said.
“Donaldson played well on the last tour, he’s a young guy coming though and he looks like he’s got a good head on him. So who knows?
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“And there’s great competition there, hopefully we’ve got Quade coming back, (Bernard) Foley’s playing well in Japan, (James) O’Connor will be fit for the Reds, then you’ve got (Noah) Lolesio at the Brumbies, a young guy whose had some experience in Test rugby.
“So it’s going to be competitive, but we’re definitely going to have to decide the hierarchy of 10s… you want cohesion, particularly in the spine of your team, so we’ll try to get to that as quickly as we can.”
Jones’ first key calls will be settling on his assistant coaches.
The incumbents are forwards specialists Dan McKellar and Laurie Fisher as well as scrum coach Petrus du Plessis.
The Wallabies were already looking for a new backs coach after Scott Wisemantel resigned in January.
Jones worked with Wisemantel in England and could potentially try to twist his arm while his former Brumbies protégé, Stephen Larkham, is another option in World Cup year.
“If we win the World Cup it changes things for rugby in Australia,” Jones said.
“So our target is to win the World Cup, then we’ll worry about what happens after that.
“To win the World Cup, we’re going to take this talented group of players, who are going to have to work together to make a team that has a competitive edge over the rest of the world. If you look at world rugby at the moment, there’s six teams not separated by a cigarette paper. They’re so tight.”
The Wallabies are ranked sixth in the world behind Ireland, France, New Zealand, South Africa and England.
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