Eddie Jones returned to his roots on Tuesday for his first formal news conference since being reappointed Wallabies coach and issued a call for the whole of Australian rugby to “roll their sleeves up” and help revitalise the game.
In a message delivered at the school where he was once a pupil and teacher, Jones said the team would do their part by winning the World Cup in France later this year but could not revive the sport alone.
“I reckon we’ve got to draw a line in the sand and where we’ve been and work out where we want to go … then everyone needs to roll their sleeves up,” the 63-year-old told reporters at Matraville Sports High School.
“We can’t do it by ourselves. We need everyone in the rugby community to find a bit more and they can. There’s plenty of people who love rugby when the Wallabies win, so we’re going to win, but we need them to maybe help start it.”
The Ella brothers – Mark, Glen and Gary – also attended the school with Jones and in describing the style of rugby he wanted Australia to play, the former England coach drew on the rugby revolution they helped trigger in the 1980s.
“There’s plenty of talented players but talent doesn’t win World Cups,” Jones said.
“What wins World Cups and wins hearts of people are teams that play with that same spirit the Ellas had, being aggressive and playing with a certain panache.
“We want to play tough. You want to win those tight games by one or two points, and that’s the traditional Australian digger spirit. We want that in the team.”
Winning tight games, something the Wallabies lost the habit of doing as they slid down the world rankings to number six over the last few seasons, was key to claiming the World Cup for the third time.
“If you look at world rugby at the moment, there are six teams not separated by a cigarette paper. They’re so tight,” he added.
“And the team that learns the most over the next nine months will be the team that lifts the William Webb Ellis trophy at the Stade de France on the 28th of October at about 11 o’clock in the evening.”
‘NOT THE MESSIAH’
Jones cited the transformation that Rassie Erasmus wrought on the Springboks in a short time ahead of the last World Cup, which they won, but stressed again he could not do it alone.
“I think I made the point that I’m not the messiah, everyone’s in this together,” he said.
“Sometimes you just need someone to beat the drum. And that gets everyone walking a bit faster. And maybe that’s the role at the moment. But as we go forward, it’s going to be about everyone working together.”
Jones said he would have a chat with officials at Rugby Australia over the Giteau Law, which restricts the number of players based overseas that he can select, at a later date.
In traditional Jones style, he aimed a sideswipe at former England coach Clive Woodward but otherwise was clear that he did not want to talk about his previous job or his sudden exit from Twickenham last December.
“England’s a chapter which I enjoyed, loved it, but it’s closed,” he said.