Five Things: Eddie’s mad scientist coaching group exposed – but Wallabies won’t fear Wales like Fiji


SAINT ETIENNE – It wasn’t just the Wallabies who were shown up against Fiji, but Eddie Jones and his coaching team.

The absence of detail in the Wallabies’ game came back home to roost during their humbling 22-15 loss.

The 18 penalties the Wallabies gave away put the spotlight firmly on Jones’ assistant coaches.

From faltering scrums and collapsed mauls to the Wallabies’ terrible inaccuracy and understanding at the breakdown, there were few positives for Jones’ men other than their defence.

The Wallabies’ horror five-minute period from the 58th minute to 63rd highlighted their deficiencies at the breakdown.

Too often the Wallabies missed their cleanout because of the physical pressure the Fijians put on their opponents in defence.

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 17: Jordan Petaia of Australia is tackled by Frank Lomani and Josua Tuisova of Fiji during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Fiji at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on September 17, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It meant the Wallabies nutritiously stepped back on the inside and lost their cleanout supporter, therefore allowing the jackler to pounce on the exposed ball and Andrew Brace was all too happy to oblige.

In the 61st minute, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa had no effect because he missed the cleanout zone.

Two minutes later, it was Jordan Petaia losing his feet as he attempted to latch onto Samu Kerevi but only managed to stumble over his midfield partner, therefore, allowing the Fijians to pounce before Suliasi Vunivalu arrived.

Later, Vunivalu, like so many, got spooked because of the Fijians’ rush defence and stepped back inside. Ben Donaldson wasn’t able to shift Semi Radradra after being a split second late.

Since taking over, Jones has attempted to free the Wallabies up in attack. But by doing so, it is obvious that there is less understanding at the breakdown including who is responsible for what.

It’s not just at the breakdown, but the Wallabies’ decision making of when to kick and when not to.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones’ unusual coaching team was shown up by Fiji during their World Cup defeat. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Jordan Petaia’s long, raking kick was put to good use midway through the opening half inside his 22 metre line, but twice he gifted possession away with terrible grubbers. It’s something Tom Wright paid the price for.

He wasn’t the only one, with Nic White and Issak Fines-Leleiwasa kicking when their chasers weren’t ready.

At other times, Carter Gordon tracked back down the short side and was hammered when the decision-making proved wrong.

The Wallabies’ struggles against Fiji bring sharply into focus Jones’ coaching team.

Who is responsible for the breakdown?

The Wallabies’ defence assistant (Brett Hodgson) and attack assistant (Jason Ryles) are both former NRL players, who have only recently transitioned into rugby. Or is it the two AFL assistant coaches (Neil Craig and David Rath) working with the Wallabies, too?

The Wallabies’ maul has gone backwards at a rate of knots since Dan McKellar’s departure as well.

Under McKellar, the Brumbies had one of the best mauls in the game along with the Crusaders while the Wallabies’ was improving under his tutelage.

Meanwhile, several Australian Super Rugby coaches and other respected figures in the game are twiddling their thumbs back home.

It wasn’t just a slap in the face by looking past them but when the Wallabies are struggling in several areas, it certainly brings into focus Jones’ mad scientist approach to bringing his coaching structure together.

Compare that to Simon Raiwalui’s coached side, who were methodical, attacked the breakdown hard and went away from Flying Fijian rugby by accumulating points and building scoreboard pressure.


As Jones tries to mastermind the Wallabies’ great Pool C recovery, he would be wise to look back at the Wallabies’ best performance of 2023 which came in the deep south of the world in Dunedin.

There the Wallabies’ big men rolled up their sleeves, they won the contact zone and that in turn allowed Tate McDermott and Mark Nawaqanitawase to play off quick ball.

It’s why Pone Fa’amausili’s fitness is important.

The Wallabies tight-head prop hasn’t played since their 23-20 loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin, where he put in an eye-catching performance.

While it was far from perfect, his ability to dent the line was missed against Fiji, particularly in the absence of Taniela Tupou.

Could Carter Gordon and Tate McDermott re-establish their combination against Wales? (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Outside of McDermott that Saturday afternoon were Carter Gordon and Andrew Kellaway and that combination built from years together in Melbourne should be re-established.

Ben Donaldson has enhanced his reputation over the past fortnight, but the body of work suggests that the Rebels duo could be the better bet ahead of a must-win clash against Wales.

That would allow Donaldson and Max Jorgensen, who could be looked at ahead of Suliasi Vunivalu despite his own stocks rising, to be injected off the bench if need be.


Finally, SANZAAR saw the light took the punt by including Fiji in Super Rugby in 2022 with the move to Super Rugby Pacific.

Now, they must wake up from their slumber and move heaven and earth, and beg World Rugby if need be, to include the island nation in The Rugby Championship.

For years, the TRC has been stale.

But Fiji would breathe fresh life into the competition and some much-needed voice and drama.

Imagine the All Blacks or Springboks going to Suva on the final weekend of the TRC and needing to defeat the Fijians on home soil to lift the trophy?

While Rugby Australia – and others – have financial and high-performance concerns about them, they only need to look in their own backyard to see that life in those quarters is not so rosy.

Fiji needed a statement to be considered seriously.

By defeating the Wallabies for the first time in 69 years they have done just that.


One of the changes under Jones was the introduction of several sports psychologists,

Now, it’s time to see whether they have had a positive effect.

Defeat to Fiji has echoed right throughout the world and woken frustrated and lost Australian rugby fans up back home. Victory against Wales can help bring some of those lost souls back.

Wales won’t scare the Wallabies like Fiji did.

The Wallabies knew the physical assault coming but simply couldn’t handle the heat.

Wales don’t have the same fear factor.

Warren Gatland might be back in charge and is a cunning character, who has implemented his own changes throughout Wales since returning late last year.

Wales' Louis Rees-Zammit celebrates at the final whistle during the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool C match at the Stade de Bordeaux, France. Picture date: Sunday September 10, 2023. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Wales won’t scare the Wallabies like Fiji did despite winning their opening two World Cup Tests. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Although the Welsh have some battle-hardened and experienced players in Dan Bigger and Leigh Halfpenney, as well as threats in Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit, they don’t have the midfield and tight-five threat they once did.

Jac Morgan is a player on the rise and Toby Faletau is rediscovering his form, they won’t provide the physical and expansive threat Fiji did.

Instead, Wales, who were poor against Portugal and should have lost to Fiji first-up, will likely try to grind the Wallabies down through a kick-heavy game-plan.

How Wales approaches the game will be fascinating too, knowing that even a bonus point will likely be enough for them to progress into the final eight.

Compare that to the Wallabies, who likely don’t just need a win but a bonus point win too.


Two weeks into the World Cup and it’s clear that Ireland and South Africa have been the most impressive sides.

The pace and precision and running lines of Ireland has been simply outstanding.

Andy Farrell has picked up where Joe Schmidt took Ireland and refined their plan even more.

They were barely challenged against a physical Tongan side on Saturday, but the watching world will get another game to whet the appetite on Saturday when they meet South Africa.

Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks had no troubles getting past Romania and they are primed to give the tournament a real shake.

Johnny Sexton of Ireland plays a pass ahead of Cristian Chirica and Iulian Hartig of Romania during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Ireland and Romania at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on September 09, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has started the World Cup in strong form. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Farrell’s Irish will be out to make a statement so they can prepare accordingly ahead of their clash against Scotland in the final week of the pool matches.

While the All Blacks easily put away Namibia in the wet, a second-string French side was made to work harder against Uruguay.

That little challenge won’t concern France, with the host nation needing to find ways of winning even when they don’t play well.

As for the All Blacks, Ethan de Groot will miss the next couple of Tests after his red card challenge in the second half.

His absence will stretch the All Blacks’ resources up front.

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