Rugby Australia chief takes ‘integrity’ swipe at Eddie Jones as Japan switch nears

Colin Newboult
Former England and Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones.

Former England and Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones.

Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Phil Waugh wants the sport in the country to be “a game of integrity” following a disastrous year for the governing body.

After sacking Dave Rennie and hiring Eddie Jones, the Wallabies endured a dreadful year which saw them win just two matches.

They were ousted at the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever before Jones resigned just 10 months into a five-year contract.

Chairman Hamish McLennan, who played a key role in bringing the 63-year-old back to Australia, was also forced to step down.

Mark Nawaqanitawase deal

There are several problems that Waugh has to deal with, including a potential exodus of players to rugby league.

Star wing Mark Nawaqanitawase has left for the Sydney Roosters on a two-year contract and other NRL sides are apparently scouring union in Australia for talent.

But it is the issue with Jones that particularly stings for Wallabies supporters. According to reports in Japan, the deal to return as Brave Blossoms head coach is almost done, despite him consistently denying links with the Japanese Rugby Football Union.

He has repeatedly insisted that stories of him having a Zoom interview were false, with RA previously backing up their now former head coach.

Waugh has stood by what he said while Jones was Wallabies boss, but took a dig by stating that their organisation now needs to have “integrity”.

“I took Eddie on his word,” Waugh told reporters, before rather pointedly adding: “We’ve got to be a game of integrity and a team of integrity.

“It hasn’t been named officially yet. Eddie finished with Rugby Australia on November 25.

“We’re moving forward with hopefully announcing a new head coach of the Wallaroos this week, a new director of high performance and [we are] in the market for a new head coach of the Wallabies.

“I made my comments at the World Cup and I still stand by those comments.”

Issues with Japan?

While the criticism has primarily been levelled in Jones’ direction, there could also be disappointment with the actions of Japan.

In July, RA and Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) signed a cooperation agreement to help grow the sport in both countries, but just a month later the Wallabies’ head coach was reportedly having talks with Japanese officials.

That could cause friction between the two, but Waugh insists that there will be no obvious impact to their relationship.

“We’ll play a lot of Test matches against Japan and we look forward to continuing that strong partnership,” he added.

“I’m not going to buy into speculation around what may have happened or may have occurred. We are moving forward to putting all those appointments in place and building a really strong culture for the Wallabies going forward.

“There will be a lot of internationals between the Wallabies and Japan. We look forward to those contests, as we do every Test match.”

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