Eddie Jones is the clear favourite to take over from Jamie Joseph as the Brave Blossoms’ new head coach after the Rugby World Cup, according to reports in the Japanese media.
The current Wallabies boss has been linked with a return to Japan after it was alleged on the eve of the Wales game that he held a Zoom interview with Japanese officials ahead of the global tournament.
Jones has consistently pledged his commitment to Australian rugby since the story broke, but the Japan Rugby Football Union has refused to deny that talks did indeed take place.
And Japanese sports website Sponichi has now claimed that the 63-year-old is close to agreeing a deal as Joseph’s successor.
Friends with Japan rugby president
“Current Australian national team coach Eddie Jones is expected to return as the successor to Joseph,” the story read.
“This spring, Masato Tsuchida, president of the Japan Association, with whom he has had a honeymoon relationship since his days at Suntory, contacted him.
“Contract negotiations have been held privately behind the scenes, and preparations are underway for (his) return (for the first time) since the 2015 World Cup, which led them to a historic three wins.”
Claims that Jones held a Zoom interview prior to the World Cup angered Wallabies fans, given that he only returned to the hotseat in January.
The 63-year-old, who is in his second stint as the country’s head coach, signed a five-year deal which took him to the end of the 2027 global tournament.
He has since been called a traitor and this story will only add to the concern that Jones is set to abandon Australian rugby.
“The Australian team at this tournament is at a historic low, and there are growing voices questioning Jones’ ability,” the report continued.
“Last month, it was reported that he had an online meeting with the (Japan Rugby Football Union) before the tournament, which sparked criticism.
“He denies this, and the Australian Association (Rugby Australia) has also issued a statement supporting his continued participation until the 2027 (World Cup), raising the possibility that a return to Japan may be a deal-breaker.”
Worst ever World Cup
The Wallabies struggled under previous boss Dave Rennie but there were signs of improvement during the 2022 end-of-year tour.
That didn’t prevent him from being sacked, however, as Rugby Australia decided to bring back Jones.
The new boss chose to rip up the team and drop several experienced players for the World Cup, including Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper.
It did not yield the desired results as they exited the global tournament at the pool stages for the first time ever after defeats to Fiji and Wales.