By David Williams
Not for the first time in his life, Eddie Jones is thinking about Wales.
The Australia coach is facing one of the most important matches of his career – and one that could define his legacy in his homeland – as he plots a way back for the Wallabies against Wales in Pool C of the World Cup on Sunday.
Australia’s 22-15 defeat to Fiji, means Australia must beat Wales to have a realistic hope of staying in the tournament for the knockout stages.
But if they can manage it, then Pool C will come down to the tightest of margins – with one of the three contenders set to be narrowly edged out.
🗣️"They should be throwing baguettes and croissants at me!" 🤣
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) September 18, 2023
Should Wales lose and fail to earn a bonus point, it could well be Warren Gatland’s team that are soon coming home.
Here’s what Jones had to say on Monday morning:
On his thoughts about defeat to Fiji:
“We’re moving on to Wales now. This is the best coaching week, best playing week. These are the weeks you remember when you are under the pump quite a lot and you have got to produce a good performance.
“We are starting to set our sights on how we need to play against Wales. The Fiji game, at the start of the game we couldn’t find our rhythm.
“Physically we got a little bit struck by them and that put us on the back foot and we never found our rhythm until maybe the last 20 minutes when we played with a bit more fluency and a bit more like ourselves.
“It’s a harsh learning experience, but one that we will take into the Wales game.”
— Geoff Longly (@GeoffLongly) September 17, 2023
On how will he motivate players ahead of Pool C game with Wales on Saturday:
“There are no problems with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance. Sometimes you play a team that’s a little bit better than you and if they’re better at the start of the game that puts you off.
“We are all still searching for answers. None of us has the 100 per cent answer. But we have ideas about where the game came unstuck.
“But Wales are a completely different team. They grind away at you whereas Fiji is power. The surprising thing about getting beaten by Fiji is that we scored two tries to one and their try came from an innocuous kick that we failed to handle.”
On Jordan Uelese, will he play against Wales:
“No, he is a 12-day stand down.”
The game of the World Cup so far? 😍
— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) September 18, 2023
On if skipper Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou will be available for final pool game:
“The only thing we are worried about now is Wales and they are unavailable for Wales.”
On how does this week compare to other times in his coaching career:
“This is one of the biggest challenges for this team and personally for the coaching staff. We know how we want to play against Wales and we are going to work really hard to get the players back on track.
“When you have a loss like this it knocks you around a bit. It knocks you emotionally and team ethics wise. You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room. There is noise from outside which you have to handle. That’s the challenge for the coaching staff this week, to make sure they have got the right noise.”
On if he will advise players to keep off social media:
“That’s an individual choice for each player. They make their own decisions on how they deal with social media. Everyone makes a choice on how they run their lives.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 17, 2023
On if he fears Wales will target fly-half Carter Gordon:
“There’s no team in the world that doesn’t target the opposition 10. They are the conductor of the team and if you can get to them you get to them.
“There’s various ways you can look after your 10 and we’ll have a look at that this week.”
On if this is a week for tough love:
“I don’t know what your description of tough love is, mate.”
On in terms of selection and putting best team on field:
“We do that every week, mate.”
On if Fiji result is good learning curve for Rugby World Cup 2029:
“The only thing we are worried about is Wales this week. We’d be happy to play them tomorrow if they wanted to play. We’d get the television organised. We can’t wait for the challenge.”
With Fiji defeating Australia earlier today here's how Pool C looks now👀
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) September 17, 2023
On if he has watched replay of Fiji game:
“I have had enough time to look at it. I woke up in the morning hoping the result was different but it was still the same.
“It reinforced initial impressions that we got knocked off our kilter the first 30 minutes of the game and were never really able to recover until the last 30.
“I thought our young finishing bench did really well and put us in a position to win the game and we weren’t quite good enough.”
A bonus point win in the end against Portugal, and a first win in 69 years by Fiji over Australia, have given Wales a four-point lead at the half-way mark of Pool C at the World Cup.
Warren Gatland’s side made it a maximum 10 points from their back-to-back wins over Fiji and Portugal thanks to a last gasp try from Taulupe Faletau in Nice. The following day the Fijians followed up their 32-26 defeat to Wales with a sensational 22-15 win over the Wallabies.
It means that after two rounds, Wales are top with 10 points and both Fiji and Australia are behind them on six. Wale have also scored the most tries and points to date in their Pool with 8 and 60.
Fiji beat Australia for just the third time in their history as they blew Pool C wide open with a thrilling win at the Rugby World Cup 🔥
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) September 17, 2023
Having made 13 changes to his starting XV for the game in Nice, Gatland was forced into a last-minute alteration in the back row when Tommy Reffell pulled up in the warm-up. That meant Jac Morgan came into the side for his second game.
“Tommy said his calf was a bit tight. He was keen to take to the field, but if he had pulled that calf that would have been his World Cup over,” said Gatland.
“I thought Jac, with very little preparation this week, was good. We’re happy with the bonus point and in the dressing room i just said to the players that’s ‘job done.
“We tried to play too much rugby early on and didn’t play more direct. Some of those players hadn’t had a lot of rugby and it wasn’t pretty. A few guys looked a bit rusty having not played together for a little while, but we’ll take the ‘W’ and move on.”
“People had an opportunity to put their hand up so we’ll review that and see which guys did perform well. I thought Rio Dyer looked sharp on the wing, really happy with his aerial stuff.
“The lineout didn’t function as well as I would have liked, and we were a bit lateral at times. When we ran hard and won the collisions, we looked dangerous, and we looked comfortable.
“In fairness to Portugal they put us under pressure, and they moved the ball. I was impressed with them.”
Next up for Wales are the wounded Wallabies, who have never lost two pool games in their history and have always made the knock-out stages. Their only previous defeats in the pool stage had come against Wales (29-25) in Japan four years ago, against Ireland 15-6) in 2011 and South Africa in 1995 (27-18).
Fiji face a must-win clash with Australia in World Cup Pool C on Sunday in Saint Etienne, according to captain Waisea Nayacalevu, following their narrow defeat to Wales last week➡️ https://t.co/XpjRYWd4yE #AFPSports #RWC2023 #AUSvFIJ pic.twitter.com/dCeyX3wmLU
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) September 17, 2023