‘Smart arse’ comments from Eddie Jones ‘a bit of gamesmanship’ says Wallabies great

Colin Newboult

Eddie Jones at a Wallabies press conference in 2023.

Former Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell insisted that Eddie Jones was simply trying to deflect from his players’ performance when he lashed out at a South African journalist.

There was plenty of hype around the 63-year-old’s return to the Wallabies’ hotseat but it proved to be a disastrous start as they were thrashed 43-12 by the Springboks on Saturday.

Jones said before the game that he did not want to face a “half-baked” South Africa team, with Jacques Nienaber deciding to split the Bok squads.

Several players headed out to New Zealand before Saturday’s match, which meant the side that faced Australia was not their first choice outfit.

High hopes

The Wallabies were therefore expected to be far more competitive in their Rugby Championship opener, but it ended up being a disappointing display from the Australians.

Mitchell on Nine’s Sports Sunday stated that they had “lost a little momentum because people were hyped up for Eddie Jones’ first game’’.

The result led to a South African reporter asking Jones whether he was now pleased that they had not faced the Boks’ B-team.

Australia’s head coach did not take too kindly to the question, believing the tone was sarcastic, and duly labelled him a “smart arse.”

He continued to berate the journalist, even after the press conference had ended, resulting in some of the post-match discussion focusing on that altercation.

“There could be a little bit of that, a bit of gamesmanship making sure we’re talking about Eddie rather than the performance,” ex-Wallaby wing Mitchell said.

“He’s also staunch on respect. We saw that there. He kept going to him (the journalist) after the press conference was done – ‘just have some respect’.

“There was a little bit of cheekiness layered in that question from the journo and I like it, I like Eddie Jones going up and saying ‘No mate, don’t be a smart arse’.”

The performance

Mitchell admits that there needs to be a massive improvement against Argentina next weekend after they were physically overwhelmed by the Springboks.

“Look, that was just a dominant performance from the Springboks,” he added.

“They just bashed our guys all over the park. They just dominated territory. We just weren’t playing in the right areas of the field and then we were we just didn’t fire a shot.

“I just think we went up there knowing it was altitude, knowing that they’re a big team, and probably changed the way we wanted to play to try and suit the Springboks rather than finding our brand.

“Very rarely do you see a Wallabies team go up against an opposition and just not fire a shot, and that’s probably the most disappointing thing for them.”

READ MORE: ‘You don’t have to be a smart arse, mate’ – Eddie Jones berates SA journalist