SAINT-ETIENNE, France (AP) — Injured captain Will Skelton fronted up a day after Australia’s latest Rugby World Cup misfire and said they have absolute trust in coach Eddie Jones.
The Wallabies are on the brink of their worst result at a Rugby World Cup after an historic loss to Fiji and, on Sunday, a record whipping from Wales by 40-6. They have never failed to advance from the pool stage.
The results have coincided with the absence of skipper Skelton, who suffered a grade one torn calf in training two weeks ago and said on Monday he might not be ready for their last pool game against Portugal this Sunday in Saint-Etienne.
Jones has been lambasted for failing to improve Australia’s results since he was hired in January — seven losses in eight tests — and vehemently denied an Australian media report that he interviewed for the Japan coaching job two weeks before the Rugby World Cup.
“Eddie’s denied it with us. We have full trust in him also,” Skelton said. “I don’t think it was a distraction leading into the game.
“I don’t have to (ask Jones directly). I heard the press conference last night. I trust in there what he says, he’s a man of his word. He’s got the full support of the group.”
The big lock, winner of the last two European club finals with La Rochelle, also believed Jones is the right man to be coaching the Wallabies.
“His long-term vision and what he wants Australian rugby to be back to, I think that’s a positive,” he said. “The way he is around the group, you see in the media he has his persona, but when you see him one to one, in front of the team, how he speaks, how he directs, the boys follow him and I do as well.
“He is a fantastic coach with a massive rugby IQ. We’re learning every day when we’re working with him. It’s one of those things, he simplifies the game of rugby for us.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t perform up to those standards on the weekend and the weeks gone by, to really show that coaching that’s been happening in the last few months. That’s on the players and us owning that and putting our hands up as well.”
Jones succeeded Dave Rennie, who was shockingly axed in January after three years, most of it during the pandemic. Rennie went 5-9 last year with heavily depleted squads.
When asked about Rennie’s reaction to their results, Skelton said, “I think he would be hurting. He’s a good man, Dave. He had a good relationship with his players as well. He would be hurting on a personal level. I am sure he would send texts to his ex-players.”
Skelton didn’t see the poor performance coming against Wales after what he considered a good week of preparation.
“I was sitting with the coaches all week and I thought we prepped really well. Training is never perfect, just like in the game. So we adapted to that but I thought we prepped well enough to do a job.
“That’s the frustrating thing, that it didn’t transfer onto the field. We talk about us but you’ve got to give credit to Wales. They came with a gameplan to squeeze us at set-pieces and their defense was awesome.”
Skelton said Jones debriefed the team after the game and they returned to the team hotel for a players-only group chat.
“The boys will not grieve but it will sting for a long time for us. We not only let ourselves down but we let all our fans and our families back home down. So, we’re hurting for that.
“To get a couple of losses and almost end the tournament, the boys are really disappointed, they’re gutted. We’ve got one more shot to put out a good performance and that’s what we are focused on.”
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