Eddie Jones is the pantomime villain of this Rugby World Cup but bullish Australia boss insists ‘no one’s jeering me in the street, mate!’

Everyone with an interest in Australian rugby and countless others within the sport at large want to know, definitively, what Eddie Jones’s plans are – and he is adamant that he is not moving on.

Whether he is moved on is another matter, although his bosses have expressed their backing for now. But as the Wallabies tick along at their secluded base camp, doing weights in a marquee next to the hotel and waiting for Fiji to extinguish their faint hope of World Cup salvation, there was no escaping the elephant in the room – or, more accurately, on the brasserie terrace.

Jones broke off from a series of meetings with players and staff there to speak to Mail Sport and the thorny issue of what comes next for him after this tournament was unavoidably high on the agenda. The Rugby Australia hierarchy; chairman Hamish McLennan and chief executive Phil Waugh, have offered public support for their embattled head coach, after defeat to Fiji and a 40-6 capitulation at the hands of Wales left the green-and-gold campaign here in disarray.

Now, amid a fierce backlash and renewed doubt Down Under about what lies ahead for the national team and the man who returned for a second stint in charge at the start of the year, after his sacking by England last December, the ball appears to be in Jones’s court. So what is his outlook?

‘I have signed a five-year contract,’ said the 63-year-old. ‘Like any job, coaches are in an employer-employee relationship, and we are in a game of winning. Whenever you’re not winning, the coach is vulnerable, so I am vulnerable. Does that cause extra noise? It probably does. There’s been this noise about Japan, but nothing has happened. So that’s just added a bit more noise to it.’

Eddie Jones revealed exclusively to Mail Sport that he has no intentions of stepping down from his role as the manager of the Australian rugby team 

The Wallabies have suffered a disappointing campaign after defeats to Fiji and Wales

The Wallabies have suffered a disappointing campaign after defeats to Fiji and Wales

Jones was referring to a report by a leading, respected Australian newspaper which firmly stated that he had held talks with Japan, about going back there as head coach of the Brave Blossoms. He sought to dismiss it after the Welsh ordeal and when asked again whether he had spoken to either the Japanese union, or any organisation or individuals acting on their behalf, he said: ‘No,’ before adding: ‘Whenever there is any noise; that creates uncertainty.

‘I came into this job with the approach that it was going to be a long-term job, but Rugby Australia could change. If there’s a change in the wind then things can happen, but my commitment was always long-term and there’s no reason why that won’t happen.’

Australia great Tim Horan joined the fanfare of speculation about Jones’s intentions when he asked earlier this week: ‘Does Eddie Jones actually want to coach the Wallabies?’ The response yesterday was: ‘If the judgement was on commitment, he wouldn’t be saying that. There’s no commitment issue.’

Events in France have left Jones in a tight corner and struggling for answers at times. But what they haven’t done is left him with diminished self-belief. ‘I haven’t got any doubt about myself,’ he said. ‘I’m not trying to make myself out as a martyr, but I went back to Australia to try to help them and I still think what I’ve done – despite the results so far – is going to help Australian rugby in the future.’

At this World Cup, Jones appears to have become a pantomime villain for fans of all nationalities. He has been booed mercilessly, every time he has appeared on the big screens during matches. The ferocity of the noise aimed at him was so extreme in the fixture against Wales in Lyon that it drew strong condemnation from Dan Biggar in these pages.

Asked if it has been hard to take, Jones said: ‘I don’t really worry about it mate.’ Really? ‘I genuinely don’t worry about it. If that’s the way they want to carry on, then that’s fair enough.

‘It’s not how I’m treated in the street. I don’t think I’ve had one person come up and jeer me in the street. Whatever people do at the ground… it’s a bit like social media isn’t it? Everyone is brave when they don’t have to show their face.

‘Here, the crowds have definitely been different – they’ve had more of a football way about them. But it’s not to the extent that we’re having fights. If it reached the point that fans were fighting then that would be a sign that it’s going too far.’

At this World Cup, Jones appears to have become a pantomime villain for fans of all nationalities and has been jeered mercilessly by supporters in stadiums

At this World Cup, Jones appears to have become a pantomime villain for fans of all nationalities and has been jeered mercilessly by supporters in stadiums

It is not just spectators who have turned their wrath on Jones. Countless former players have taken shots at him too. Many were incensed by the sudden ejection of veterans Michael Hooper – the long-standing captain – and Quade Cooper from the Wallabies squad in the summer. Jones has no regrets about his ruthless decision, despite admitting that he has questioned it at times.

‘I decided that we needed to make an abrupt change, because the status quo wasn’t going to be good enough,’ he said. ‘I decided to look at the next generation coming through. Sometimes, I look back and you do think whether that was the right thing to do or not. But in the end, I do think it was the right thing to do. The advantage with this squad is that it still has five or six years of growth in it. That will set Australia up well for the Lions series in 2025 and for the 2027 World Cup.

‘Players take it in different ways. That’s always a World Cup issue; when you leave out established players. Some of those players will carry a grudge until the day they die and other players will let it go. It’s not something I can control. It doesn’t bother me.’

What the game Down Under needs is an outbreak of unity and overdue reform. Jones recognises that age-old divisions and structures cannot continue. ‘Australia’s never had that,’ he said, when asked about unity. ‘There’s always been a lot of in-fighting. It was always New South Wales against Queensland, then the Brumbies come in and everybody hates the Brumbies.

‘It’s always been like that. It’s a small rugby country that’s had a lot of in-fighting and at some stage we need to be more collaborative in our approach. You just have to look at smaller rugby countries like Ireland. When you get that cohesive approach, you can have that success.

‘Australia now, in terms of rugby population and rugby significance, is a small country in the world. In the amateur and early professional era, we were a country well ahead of its spot, because we had professionalism in the game, because of close ties with rugby league and Aussie Rules. Now, we don’t have that advantage, so Australian rugby needs a reset. We are still running off an antiquated system, which was pre-professional. We need to change with the times.’

Jones enjoyed a seven-year stint as the England boss before his departure in December 2022

Jones enjoyed a seven-year stint as the England boss before his departure in December 2022

His comments served as an echo across the world, between his home country and the one he left behind when the RFU halted his seven-year tenure as England head coach. ‘English rugby is a bit the same way,’ he added. ‘At some stage, they’re going to have to change the model there. What that is, I’m not sure. But to compete against more cohesive countries, they have to change.’

However, he has been impressed by the work of his Red Rose successor, Steve Borthwick. England have won their first three matches at this tournament to guaranteed qualification for the knock-out stages as Pool D winners and Jones saluted their efforts.

‘England have been playing really good World Cup rugby,’ he said. ‘I always thought they would. They’ve gone back to an older team and they are tactical balanced, with a strong kicking game. Their set piece has been good enough, defensively they’ve been good enough and they’ve been able to score enough points either through the boot of George Ford or some good attack close to the line. I’m really pleased for Steve.’

Yet, when pressed on whether there is any prospect of an English triumph in the weeks ahead, Jones gave his take on the title contenders, adding: ‘Rugby is such a power game and the most powerful teams are South Africa, France and Ireland – but with Ireland it is more a collective power. Then you’ve got New Zealand, who rely on the speed of the ball. If New Zealand get a referee like Wayne Barnes, then they’ve got a great chance, but those four teams are a little bit above everyone else.’

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