Former Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore is one of the greatest players to ever pull on the green and gold – but the 129-Test legend is dismayed and ‘disillusioned’ with the current state of rugby union in Australia.
Given his glittering CV and immense passion for his country and game, the fact Moore says Australian rugby has ‘drifted from one level of mediocrity to the next’ is a damning indictment.
The 39-year-old, who retired in 2017 as Australia’s second-most capped Wallaby and the only hooker to ever play 100 Tests, said he is deeply concerned at coach Dave Rennie being sacked and replaced with Eddie Jones months out from the World Cup.
Wallabies legend Stephen Moore, who has the second-most Test caps for Australia, has slammed the state of the game Down Under
But that is far from Moore’s only gripe with the state of the game in Australia, and he isn’t holding back.
‘Australian rugby has drifted from one level of mediocrity to the next over the last couple of decades,’ he told Code Sports.
‘It’s disappointing. I’m really disillusioned with the game, which is a shame, and a lot of my mates who l played rugby with are in the same boat.’
Of particular concern to Moore was the ‘panicked’ decision to re-hire Eddie Jones, who first coached the nation from 2001-2005 before he was unceremoniously dumped.
Moore says the decision to sack Rennie and hire Eddie Jones (pictured) after he was fired from the England role was ‘panicked’ and represents the issues facing rugby in Australia
It wasn’t just the choice of Jones that has irked Moore, either, but rather the fact that no one else appeared to be interested in the Aussie role.
He took aim squarely at the lack of leadership both off and on the field down under.
‘(Hiring Jones) is almost a panicked decision because Eddie got sacked by England and they had to move quickly,’ Moore said.
‘We haven’t grown our own coaches like we should’ve and now it’s biting us. Whenever the Wallabies job comes up, we’re scratching our heads about who could fill that role.’
He also took aim at the lack of leadership in players across the Super Rugby franchises.
Stephen Moore, one of the Wallabies greatest-ever players, says there is a huge dearth of leaders on and off the field in Australian rugby
Moore fumed at Rugby Australia for ‘not doing a good job’ in developing leaders, with the two current captain options – Michael Hooper and James Slipper – clearly closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.
What many former Wallabies and rugby fans are most dismayed about is the standard and interest of grassroots and junior footy.
Having always been a game played almost solely in private schools, rugby union has often been seen as an exclusive, pretentious sport that is only interested in appealing to the upper-class.
After the golden years of the 1990’s and noughties, union is slowly fading to oblivion in some circles, and Moore was scathing of Rugby Australia’s desire to focus mainly on the Wallabies, to the detriment of the female side, juniors and those who just want to participate.
Crushed Wallabies players look dejected at yet another defeat in 2022, this time against New Zealand in September. Jones faces a massive task to turn the side around ahead of September’s World Cup
‘We seem to be taking a very short-term view on the success of the Wallabies and the game more generally,’ he said.
‘We don’t have a long term vision for the game, and it’s a big problem because we continue to regress over time … we’re floundering at every level.’
Fellow Wallabies legend Bernard Foley told Daily Mail Australia last year this was also his biggest bugbear when it came to the game only trying to appeal to those with immensely healthy bank accounts.
‘That’s where rugby has got it so wrong for so long, targeting such a narrow market. We want to solidify that it is a game for everyone,’ he said.
Rugby Australia have gotten themselves into many regrettable knots over the last decade or two when it comes to grassroots footy – and for Foley enough is enough.
Brendan Foley (right, pictured with former coach Dave Rennie after a devastating loss to New Zealand late last year) believes rugby is targeting too small a market
‘The thing about rugby now is the schedule is so convoluted. It’s a global game, so we don’t have that dimension of guys going back to club footy and giving back – they just can’t because there is so much footy is being played,’ he said.
‘That’s why rugby has to now start prioritising the local game, be it kids or grade.’
Unfortunately, that’s not the only pressing issue facing Rugby Australia.
Winning just five of 14 Test matches last year was not ideal, especially with the World Cup beginning in September.
But Moore also slammed the diabolical rollercoaster that is Super Rugby and the obsession with trying to snatch rugby league players.
Super Rugby appears to finally be trending in the right direction and will begin next month, but Jones has made it clear he wants to target league players.
Instead of developing players who are already in the game.
It’s a lot to take in. So how on earth can rugby union get back to the glory days of Gregan, Eales and Burke in Australia?
Eddie Jones (centre) with Wallaby greats Matt Burke (second from left) and George Gregan (right) when Australian rugby was at its peak
Moore believes the game has never been in a worse spot Down Under, and is imploring Rugby Australia to care about more than just the Wallabies.
He pointed to Ireland, once minnows and now powerhouses, and their centralised approach to high performance that has dragged the entire country up to the level as one of the best rugby-playing nations on the planet.
‘I would say it’s beyond make or break, we’re well beyond that stage,’ a scathing Moore said.
‘We need to work together a lot more, that’s really important. We need more alignment between the provincial unions around high performance, commercial arrangements – all that kind of stuff.’
Eddie Jones has been given the monumental task of trying to turn the Wallabies around after a poor year in 2022
The Super Rugby season kicks off Down Under on February 24, with a match between arch rivals the Waratahs and Brumbies; while the Wallabies will need every minute that can get together to work
So, will rugby union sink to new lows, or can the game rebound, and ensure former legends like Foley and Moore are disillusioned no longer?
Only time, and the upcoming World Cup, will tell.